Making Patriots

– University of Chicago Press, 2001; paperback edition, 2002.
Although Samuel Johnson once remarked that “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels,” over the course of the history of the United States we have seen our share of heroes: patriots who have willingly put their lives at risk for this country… More

Taking the Constitution Seriously

– Simon and Schuster, 1987; reprinted, Madison Books, 1992.
Walter Berns’s book is must reading for every judge, law student, or member of the general public who wants to know more about our Federal Constitution. Berns concisely and clearly relates the history of the document but brings it down into modern,… More

In Defense of Liberal Democracy

– Regnery Gateway, 1984.
In this new book of essays, Walter Berns give shape to the arena of American government and politics. He contends that “free government is an endangered species in our world,” wrought with political passion that at times threaten to overpower our… More

After the People Vote: Steps in Choosing the President

– American Enterprise Institute Press, 1983; second edition, 1992.
Explains how electors are appointed, how ballots are cast and votes are counted, and what happens if no one has a majority; and discusses three disputed elections.

For Capital Punishment: Crime and the Morality of the Death Penalty

– Basic Books, 1979; reprinted, University Press of America, 1991.
This distinguished constitutional theorist takes a hard look at current criminal law and the Supreme Court’s most recent decisions regarding the legality of capital punishment. Examining the penal system, capital punishment, and punishment in general,… More

Freedom, Virtue and the First Amendment

– The Louisiana State University Press, 1957; reprinted, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1969.
This book examines the First Amendment and issues of liberty and the American Founding. Table of Contents Preface Acknowledgments I           Censorship: A Classic Issue II         Freedom in American Thought III        Depravity,… More


Berns on Bork: Distinguished Scholar, Dear Friend

– American Enterprise Institute, December 19, 2012.
Bob Bork was a distinguished legal scholar, judge, teacher, and dear friend to his associates here at AEI.  He was also a Marine who fought in Korea.  He lost his first wife and mother of his three children, Claire, and his closest friend and Yale Law… More

Natural Rights and Modern Constitutionalism

– Walter Berns, "Natural Rights and Modern Constitutionalism," Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism, a web resource of the Witherspoon Institute.
Excerpt: The idea of constitutionalism is as old as political science, and its features are best described and defended by political philosophers. Aristotle, for example, first addressed the question of the best form of government and, after weighing all the… More

In Memoriam: Robert A. Goldwin

– AEI Online, January 21, 2010.
Excerpt: I begin with some personal reflections. I had something of a life before I knew Bob Goldwin. I had graduated from college, had played tournament tennis, and, for four years had, along with Bob, fought World War II. (We won it, incidentally.) My life… More

Interrogations and Presidential Prerogative

Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2009.
Excerpt: Recently, an Episcopal church in Bethesda, Md., displayed a banner with the following words: “God bless everyone (no exceptions).” I confessed to the rector of my own church that, try as I might, I simply could not obey this injunction.… More

Why America Celebrates Lincoln

Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2009.
Excerpt: Abraham Lincoln did great things, greater than anything done by Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt. He freed the slaves and saved the Union, and because he saved the Union he was able to free the slaves. Beyond this, however, our extraordinary… More

Lincoln at Two Hundred: Why We Still Read the Sixteenth President

– American Enterprise Institute, 2009.
Excerpt: More has been written about Abraham Lincoln than of any other president or, for that matter, any other American; the amount is prodigious: no fewer than 16,000 books and goodness knows how many journal articles. I cannot claim to have read more than… More

The Case for Keeping the Electoral College

Roll Call, April 3, 2008.
Excerpt: Although national attention continues to focus on an especially riveting nomination contest, a consequential change to the Electoral College, the so-called National Popular Vote plan, continues to churn in the background with little fanfare or… More

On George Kateb’s Patriotism

Cato Unbound, March 12, 2008.
Excerpt: Professor Kateb begins by defining patriotism as love of country; fair enough. He then distinguishes this love from that of a child’s for his parents, pointing out that, whereas a child is not likely to be asked to die for his parents,… More

Religion and the Death Penalty

Weekly Standard, February 4, 2008.
Excerpt: The best case for the death penalty–or, at least, the best explanation of it–was made, paradoxically, by one of the most famous of its opponents, Albert Camus, the French novelist. Others complained of the alleged unusual cruelty of the… More

Outputs: The Electoral College Produces Presidents

Securing Democracy: Why We Have an Electoral College, Gary L. Gregg II, ed. (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2008).
The distinguished contributors to Securing Democracy—including Michael Barone, Walter Berns, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan—have an uncommonly complete understanding of the nature of American politics. They show that the American concept of democracy means… More


The Man that Made the Constitution Relevant

– Video, American Enterprise Institute, September 17, 2015.
A short tribute video produced by the American Enterprise Institute about the life and work of Walter Berns.

The Magna Carta, Due Process, and Administrative Power

– Philip Hamburger, Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture, American Enterprise Institute, September 17, 2015.
Summary: Is the Magna Carta still relevant? By the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell was already allegedly declaring, “Magna Carta, Magna Farta.” Numerous legal commentators today remain nearly as skeptical of its significance. Although no constitutional… More

Conversations with Bill Kristol: James Ceaser

– James Ceaser, Conversations with Bill Kristol, March 2, 2015.
In this footage from Conversations with Bill Kristol, University of Virginia political scientist James Ceaser reflects on the lives and ideas of seminal teachers of political philosophy and American government: Harvey Mansfield, James Q. Wilson, Walter Berns,… More


– Audio, "Dialogue," Woodrow Wilson Center.
In ancient Sparta patriotism meant a commitment to warfare and a view of the state as divine. For modern Americans patriotism is set on a much different and abstract basis. Walter Berns explains how America’s patriotism must mean commitment to a set of… More

Walter Berns and Leon Kass on Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln”

– Discussion with Walter Berns and Leon Kass, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, December 20, 2012.
At a discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, What So Proudly We Hail editor Leon R. Kass and Walter Berns (professor emeritus, Georgetown University) discussed Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln and the lasting impact of our 16th… More

Walter Berns and the Constitution: A Celebration of the Constitution, with Opening Remarks by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

– Panel discussion of Walter Berns' scholarship, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, September 20, 2011.
In mid-September 2011, as part of AEI’s Program on American Citizenship, we celebrated Constitution Day (September 17), the day thirty-nine members of the Constitutional Convention signed the draft constitution. In conjunction with that remembrance, we… More

Free Markets and the Constitution

– Audio lecture, American Enterprise Institute, August 11, 2009.
Why is the number of Americans who value free enterprise, and who understand its virtues and benefits declining–especially among students and younger citizens? Asked in an April Rasmussen poll to choose the better system between capitalism and… More

Abraham Lincoln at Two Hundred

– Audio lecture, American Enterprise Institute, February 9, 2009.
Abraham Lincoln was the greatest of our presidents. He saved the Union, which made it possible for him to free the slaves. But he did more than this; without him we probably would have had no reason to celebrate the bicentennial first of the Declaration of… More

Transatlantic Law Forum: Citizenship in Europe and the United States

– Audio, American Enterprise Institute, October 16, 2008.
On both sides of the Atlantic, “citizenship” is the subject of vital and often contentious policy debates. In the United States, a nation famously founded on a creed rather than blood ties, the question of what it means to be an American citizen… More

Democracy and the Constitution: Essays by Walter Berns

– Audio, book forum, American Enterprise Institute, September 29, 2006.
AEI scholar and historian Walter Berns has spent his academic career defending the United States Constitution. In his latest collection of essays, Democracy and the Constitution (AEI Press, September 2006), he addresses issues such as natural law, civil and… More


Teaching Career

Professor Emeritus, 1994–present; John M. Olin University Professor, 1986–94; Professorial Lecturer, 1979–86, Georgetown University Visiting Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago, 1984 and 1989 Member, National Council on the Humanities,… More