Elementary Catechism on the Constitution

Catechism of the Constitution Book CoverThe Federalist Papers has posted a PDF copy of an Elementary Catechism on the Constitution of the United States by Arthur J. Stansbury.

In order to help parents train their children in the principles of freedom and liberty, a famous little book was published in 1828 by Arthur J. Stansbury, called the Elementary Catechism of the Constitution of the United States. It was designed specifically for the schools but was also read widely by many adults who felt the need to know more about the mechanics of our system of self-government as designed for a free American society.

I have to admit that the book is new to me. As I’ve looked it over I’ve been impressed with its questions and answers. I’ve decided to publish it here on Mondays in a series of posts. There are no divisions in the book, so I’ll post it according to any natural breaks of topics. Here is Stansbury’s preface.








That a people living under a free government which they have themselves originated should be well acquainted with the instrument which contains it, needs not to be proved. Were the system, indeed, very cumbrous and extensive, running into minute detail, and hard to be retained in the memory, even this would be no good reason why pains should not be taken to understand and to imprint it upon the mind; but when its principles are simple, its features plain and obvious, and its brevity surpassing all example, it is certainly a most reprehen- sible negligence to remain in ignorance of it. — Yet how small a portion of the citizens of this Republic have even a tolerable acquaintance with their own Constitution? It has appeared to the author of the following sheets that this culpable want of acquaintance with what is of such deep interest to us all, is to be traced to the omission of an important part of what ought to be an American education, viz. the study of the civil institutions of our country.— We prize them, it is true, and are quite enough in the habit of boasting about them : would it not be well to teach their elements to those whose best inheritance they are?

The following work has been prepared with a view to such an experiment. It is written expressly for the use of boys, and it has been the aim and effort of the writer to bring down the subject completely to a level with their capacity to understand it. Whether he has succeeded the trial must show. He has purposely avoided all abstruse questions, and has confined himself to a simple, common- sense explanation of each article. It is very possible some inaccuracies may be discovered; and should this be the case, they shall be carefully corrected, should the work be so far approved as to reach another edition. In the mean time he cannot but indulge the hope, that in laying this little offering upon the altar of our country, he has rendered her an acceptable service.

In the heading under Charters of Freedom, you will find a copy of the Constitution as well as links to other pertinent primary documents and commentary on the Constitution.

Elementary Catechism on the Constitution posts:
Elementary Catechism on the Constitution (Preface)
I. The Necessity of Government and Its Forms
II. The American Revolution
III. The Occasion and Purpose of the Constitution
IV. State and National Laws
V. The House of Representatives
VI. The Senate
VII. Impeachment
Image from The Federalist Papers.


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