Thomas J Davis MMLThe U.S. Constitution set as its primary purpose “to form a more perfect Union,” and ever since its drafting, often raucous calls have demanded changing its provisions or processes to “perfect” that Union. Since its adoption in 1789, it has been amended 27 times – a tiny fraction of the more than 11,000 proposed amendments. 

Proposed changes range from the bizarre - Congressman Lucas Miller proposed renaming the United States of America the United States of Earth in 1893 - to those that had wide-spread support, such as the Equal Rights Amendment, which failed to win the required number of states’ approval. 

At 10 a.m., Monday, Nov. 8Thomas J. Davis, an historian, lawyer and professor emeritus at Arizona State University, will explore how and why efforts to “perfect” the constitution have changed over time. His discussion will help us understand, from an historical perspective, today’s calls to change the nation’s fundamental law. 

Davis taught constitutional and legal history at ASU and was a visiting professor at the ASU College of Law. He received his Ph.D. in U.S. history from Columbia University and his JD cum laude from New York’s University at Buffalo School of Law. Among his more than 50 scholarly articles and books, is his Plessy v. Ferguson (2012), a volume in ABC-CLIO’s Landmarks of the American Mosaic series.

Tickets to the lecture are $5 each and will be available in the lobby of the Renaissance Theater beginning at 9:00 a.m.


For more information:

Amar, Akhil Reed. The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era. New York (NY): Basic Books, 2016.

Bernstein, Richard B., and Jerome Agel. Amending America If We Love the Constitution So Much, Why Do We Keep Trying to Change It? Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1993.

Goldstein, Leslie Friedman. In Defense of the Text: Democracy and Constitutional Theory. Savage, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1991.

Grimes, Alan Pendleton. Democracy and the Amendments to the Constitution. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987.

Kammen, Michael. A Machine That Would Go of Itself: The Constitution in American Culture. New York: Cannot, 1986.

Kammen, Michael. Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture. New York: Vintage Books, 2013.

Kammen, Michael. Sovereignty and Liberty: Constitutional Discourse in American Culture. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.

Kammen, Michael. The Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

Kyvig, David E. Explicit and Authentic Acts: Amending the U.S. Constitution, 1776-1995. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996.

Lutz, Donald S. The State Constitutional Pedigree of the U.S. Bill of Rights. Publius 22, no. 2 (Spring 1992): 19-45.

Sabato, Larry J. A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country. New York: Walker, 2007.

Schwartz, Bernard. The Great Rights of Mankind: A History of the Bill Of Rights. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Vile, John R. Conventional Wisdom: The Alternate Article V Mechanism for Proposing Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016.

Weare, Neil. Equally American: Amending the Constitution to Provide Voting Rights in US Territories and the District Of Columbia. Stetson Law Review 46, no. 2 (Winter 2017): 259-94.