First published in 1833, this work is generally considered to be the most important work written on the American Constitution before the Civil War, and it remains an important work. Dedicated to John Marshall, it presents a strongly Nationalist interpretation. It is divided into three books. Book I contains a history of the colonies and discussion of their charters. Book II discusses the Continental Congress and analyzes the fl aws that crippled the Articles of Confederation. Book III begins with a history of the Constitution and its ratification. This is followed by a brilliant line-by-line exposition of each of its articles and amendments. Comparing it to The Federalist, James Kent said that Story's work was "written in the same free and liberal spirit, with equal exactness and soundness of doctrine, and with great beauty and eloquence of composition.... Whoever seeks...a complete history and exposition of this branch of our jurisprudence, will have recourse to this] work, which is written with great candor, and characterized by extended research, and a careful examination of the vital principles upon which our government reposes." cited in Marvin, Legal Bibliography 669-670.
Apart from James Kent, no man has had greater influence on the development of American law than Joseph Story 1779-1845]. He was Dane Professor of Law at Harvard, where he played a key role in the growth of the school and the establishment of its national eminence. His many books have been cited extensively to this day. An associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1812 to 1845, and the youngest person ever to serve on the Court, he was the author of several landmark decisions, such as Martin v. Hunter's Lessee and Prigg v. Pennsylvania.
"Probably the decisive factor in our reception of English equity was Story's Equity Jurisprudence. With much art (...) he made it seem that the precepts established by the decisions of the English Courts of Chancery coincided in substance with those of the Roman law as expounded by the civilians and hence were but statements of universal principles of natural law universally accepted in civilized states. If equity had been expounded to American judges and lawyers and students in the dry and technical fashion of the contemporary English treatises, we might have been sorely hampered in the development of American Law by a crippled equity. Story's sympathetic exposition of English equity (...) was the one thing needed to commend equity to our American courts and to counteract the forces that were working against it."-- Pound, The Formative Era in American Law 156-157
Apart from James Kent, no man has had greater influence on the development of American law than Joseph Story [1779-1845]. He was Dane Professor of Law at Harvard, where he played a key role in the growth of the school and the establishment of its national eminence, and an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, where he was the author of several landmark decisions, such as Martin v. Hunter's Lessee. His many books, most notably the monumental work Commentaries on the Constitution (1833), have been cited extensively, and he remains an authority today.