A MACHINE THAT WOULD GO OF ITSELF
by Michael Kammen
Knopf; 532 pages; $29.95
Like any earthly matter, the Constitution has three forms: the solid text of the framers, the more fluid interpretation of the courts and a sort of glowing gas perceived by the public. That last Constitution, misquoted, rhapsodized over and construed to endorse the passions of the moment, is the subject of this imaginative book by a Pulitzer-prizewinning Cornell University historian, Michael Kammen. Kammen rummages through two centuries of sources, including news clippings, speeches, textbooks and public opinion polls, to gauge how Americans have regarded their own charter...