The long revolutionary movements that gave birth to constitutional democracies in the Americas were founded on egalitarian constitutional ideals. They claimed that all men were created equal and with similar capacities and that the community should become self-governing.

Following the first constitutional debates that took place in the region, these promising egalitarian claims, which gave legitimacy to the revolutions, soon fell out of favor. Advocates of a conservative order challenged both ideals and wrote constitutions that established a national religion and created an exclusionary political structure. Liberals proposed constitutions that protected individual autonomy and rights but established severe restrictions on the principle of majority rule. Radicals favored an openly majoritarian constitutional organization that, according to many, directly threatened the protection of individual rights.

This book examines the influence of these opposing views during the founding period of constitutionalism in countries including the United States, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela and explores their legacy to our time.

Roberto Gargarella is Professor of Constitutional Theory and Political Philosophy at the Law School of the Universidad de Buenos Aires and the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella and a researcher for CONICET in Buenos Aires and the Christian Michelsen Institute in Norway. He has been a Visiting Fellow at Columbia, New York University, and Harvard and a Visiting Professor at universities in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. He received a John Simon Guggenheim grant in 2000 and a Harry Frank Guggenheim grant in 2002–2003 and has published on issues of legal and political philosophy, as well as on U.S. and Latin American constitutionalism.