Pocket Constitution

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A pocket constitution, published together with the Declaration of Independence. This particular copy is from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

A pocket Constitution is a printed copy of the United States Constitution that is pocket-sized or pamphlet-sized and can fit in a pocket, purse, or other small container for portability.

Publishers and use[edit]

Although the text of the Constitution is easily accessible for free online (including a printable version via the National Archives and Records Administration), the New York Times notes that "pocket-size versions come with an added feature — a physical representation of Americans' rights that can be hoisted during a congressional hearing, political rally or a spirited discussion with a police officer."[1] Although sometimes identified with the right-wing Tea Party movement, pocket Constitutions have been used by figures and advocacy groups on both the left and right for many years.[1][2]

Former ACLU president Susan Herman says that the first instance she can recall of a prominent politician using a pocket Constitutions for effect came during the Watergate hearings, when the chair of the Senate Watergate Committee, Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, pulled out his pocket Constitution, making a "powerful visual impact."[2]

A variety of entities publish and distribute (either through sales or via free giveaways) pocket Constitutions.[1] These include the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), which as of 2016 sells copies for $1.50;[1] the American Civil Liberties Union[1][2] (which publishes them en masse[2] and usually sells copies for $5, but offered them for free after Khizr Khan displayed one in an emotional speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention);[1] the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy;[3] the Heritage Foundation,[2] and the Cato Institute, which has given copies away for free to members of Congress and others.[2][4][5] Cato began publishing its pocket Constitution in 1998, and by 2005 had distributed more than four million copies. The group also publishes a bilingual Spanish-English edition.[5] The National Center for Constitutional Studies also publishes a copy, which has been criticized for its "ultraconservative annotations and commentary."[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mike, McPhate, Pocket Constitution Sales Soar After Trump Feud With Khan Family, New York Times (August 1, 2016).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Betsy Woodruff, The History of the Pocket Constitution: How mini-Constitutions became popular long before the Tea Party, Slate (January 28, 2015).
  3. ^ Caroline Fredrickson, Debate or Distraction: Why Some Are Fretting Over the ACS Pocket Constitution, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (July 20, 2010).
  4. ^ a b c d Kate Tummarello, Small Size, Enormous Importance, Roll Call (July 6, 2011).
  5. ^ a b c d The Cato Constitution, Cato Policy Report (September/October 2005), pp. 4-5.
  6. ^ "I don't know about you, but I carry this pocket Constitution everywhere."
    Skordas, Greg. Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe Turn to Private Judge (interview with Nancy Grace), Nancy Grace, CNN (September 6, 2006).
  7. ^ Bartlett, Katharine T. Foreword: A Tribute to William W. Van Alstyne, 54 Duke Law Journal 1355 (April 2005): "No one is more passionate about the U.S. Constitution. Professor Van Alstyne carries it with him virtually everywhere he goes. In the countless lectures and presentations he has given, a small, Duke-blue pocket Constitution is a frequent, usually his only, handout."
  8. ^ Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate, South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina (April 26, 2007): "This is a pocket copy of the Constitution, which I carry with me, because I took an oath to defend the Constitution."
  9. ^ Duara, Nigel (January 21, 2016). "Oregon armed protesters invoke the Constitution -- annotated by a conspiracy theorist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  10. ^ Sunstein, Cass (August 3, 2016). "Commentary: That pocket Constitution packs a few surprises". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 4, 2016.
  11. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/09/08/brett-kavanaugh-touched-his-pocket-constitution-least-times-during-his-confirmation-hearings/