Founding-Era Translations of the U.S. Constitution

31 Constitutional Commentary 1 (2016).

Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 402

53 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2014 Last revised: 25 Jan 2017

See all articles by Christina Mulligan

Christina Mulligan

Brooklyn Law School

Michael Douma

Georgetown University

Hans Lind

Yale University

Brian Patrick Quinn


Date Written: August 24, 2014


Before its ratification, the United States Constitution was translated into German and Dutch for the German- and Dutch-speaking populations of Pennsylvania and New York. Although copies of both the German- and Dutch-language translations have been preserved, they have largely escaped analysis — and public awareness — until now. This paper provides historical context for these translations and analyzes how they might aid our interpretation of the U.S. Constitution in the present day.

Supplemental to this article is an appendix containing the German and Dutch translations, as well as extensive commentary on the translations, available at

Keywords: constitution, federal constitution, united states constitution, translation, Pennsylvania-Dutch, Dutch-American, German-American, history, founding era, framing

Suggested Citation

Mulligan, Christina and Douma, Michael and Lind, Hans and Quinn, Brian Patrick, Founding-Era Translations of the U.S. Constitution (August 24, 2014). 31 Constitutional Commentary 1 (2016)., Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 402, Available at SSRN: or

Christina Mulligan (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

Michael Douma

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Hans Lind

Yale University ( email )

493 College St
New Haven, CT CT 06520
United States

Brian Patrick Quinn

Independent ( email )

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