Society and Culture

Robert Goldwin, RIP

goldwin-robert-hrAEI mourns the passing of Robert A. Goldwin, who died yesterday. Bob Goldwin joined AEI in 1976 and produced an extraordinary series of books on the Constitution designed to coincide with the celebration of its bicentennial in 1987. The first, How Democratic Is the Constitution?, edited with William A. Schambra, begins this way:

When the question, How democratic is the Constitution? was answered with a resounding, Not at all, by [historian] Charles A. Beard in 1913, there resulted an intense debate . . . that has not subsided to this day. It is not difficult to understand why that question was and is so engaging, for it has profound implications for the way we think about and behave toward the Constitution and for the way we understand ourselves as a nation.

What followed was a collection of essays that provided a sense of the complexity, as well as the importance, of the question. The volume is still the best and most balanced discussion of Beard’s thesis that the Constitution was written by rich men to protect their holdings against the masses. The other volumes in the series were equally provocative. Goldwin made many other contributions while at AEI, including Why Blacks, Women, and Jews Are Not Mentioned in the Constitution, and Other Unorthodox Views. Pulitzer Prize–winning author Ed Yoder said of this collection, and particularly its essay “What Americans Should Know about Their Constitution”: “If everyone had Bob Goldwin as a teacher, there would be less muddle and ignorance.” In 1997, AEI published his great book From Parchment to Power: How James Madison Used the Bill of Rights to Save the Constitution. The foreword was written by AEI’s great constitutional scholar Walter Berns. The two met in their first week of graduate school at the University of Chicago in 1950.

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