In 1878 British prime minister William Gladstone referred to the American Constitution as the "most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man." This course examines the origins, formation and character of America's constitutional system. Lectures will focus on why America's "Greatest Generation" founded a new nation on the basis of reason and philosophy, how they understood and developed principles such as natural rights, republicanism, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism and judicial review, and how they applied those principles to the construction of their Revolutionary governments. Ultimately, the purpose of these lectures is to identify when, how and why America's founding statesmen invented and institutionalized the idea of a written constitution as fundamental law. It will be demonstrated that this extraordinary constitutional innovation is America's most important contribution to Western political thought and practice.