About CSAC

The Center for the Study of the American Constitution (CSAC) is a non-profit, non-partisan center housed within the History Department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. CSAC was founded in 1981 as an outgrowth of the Ratification Project—a major NHPRC- and NEH-funded documentary editing project that publishes The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights series. Over the past three decades, CSAC has been involved in outreach activities relating to the Constitution, including professional development opportunities for teachers and programs for federal and state judges and community groups.

Brief History

In 1936, the National Historical Publications Commission (now the NHPRC) first suggested a documentary history of the ratification of the Constitution in order to know as completely as possible what the people ratifying the Constitution “understood it to mean, why they ratified it, and what forces and issues were involved in the struggle over it.” The initial work began in Washington, D.C., under the direction of Robert Cushman, and after his death the project was turned over to Merrill Jensen at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The project was moved permanently to Madison in 1970 and has remained there since. The project has collected copies of more than 70,000 documents in its efforts to publish the definitive history of the ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. With the death of Jensen in January 1980, John Kaminski became the editor of the Ratification Project and founded CSAC the following year in order to broaden the impact of the project’s work beyond the scholarly community. CSAC is currently seeking a larger presence for the Ratification period and the Constitution in curricula and classrooms around the nation through outreach and professional development programs.

For a detailed history, see “Documenting the Constitution: The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”


CSAC receives funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). It has also received substantial grants from various private foundations, including the E. Gordon Fox Fund at the UW Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, the Hamilton Roddis Foundation, the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation, and the Evjue Foundation. CSAC has recently received a $200,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to compile a two-volume cumulative index of the first thirty-four volumes of The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution.

CSAC also depends on and is grateful for support from individuals. Checks should be made out to the “U.W. Foundation,” designated as a contribution for the Constitution Ratification Project Fund, and mailed to:

The University of Wisconsin Foundation
1848 University Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53726-4090

You can also give online through the “Make a Gift” page on the UW Foundation’s website.

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