This book argues that the Constitution has a dual nature. The first aspect, on which legal scholars have focused, is the degree to which the Constitution acts as a binding set of rules that can be neutrally interpreted and externally enforced by the courts against government actors. This is the process of constitutional interpretation. But according to Keith Whittington, the Constitution also permeates politics itself, to guide and constrain political actors in the very process of making public policy. In so doing, it is also dependent on political actors, both to formulate authoritative constitutional requirements and to enforce those fundamental settlements in the future. Whittington characterizes this process, by which constitutional meaning is shaped within politics at the same time that politics is shaped by the Constitution, as one of construction as opposed to interpretation. Whittington goes on to argue that ambiguities in the constitutional text and changes in the political situation push political actors to construct their own constitutional understanding. The construction of constitutional meaning is a necessary part of the political process and a regular part of our nation's history, how a democracy lives with a written constitution. The Constitution both binds and empowers government officials. Whittington develops his argument through intensive analysis of four important cases: the impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson, the nullification crisis, and reforms of presidential-congressional relations during the Nixon presidency.
In his 1996 State of the Union Address, President Bill Clinton announced that the "age of big government is over." Some Republicans accused him of cynically appropriating their themes, while many Democrats thought he was betraying the principles of the New Deal and the Great Society. Mark Tushnet argues that Clinton was stating an observed fact: the emergence of a new constitutional order in which the aspiration to achieve justice directly through law has been substantially chastened. Tushnet argues that the constitutional arrangements that prevailed in the United States from the 1930s to the 1990s have ended. We are now in a new constitutional order--one characterized by divided government, ideologically organized parties, and subdued constitutional ambition. Contrary to arguments that describe a threatened return to a pre-New Deal constitutional order, however, this book presents evidence that our current regime's animating principle is not the old belief that government cannot solve any problems but rather that government cannot solve any more problems. Tushnet examines the institutional arrangements that support the new constitutional order as well as Supreme Court decisions that reflect it. He also considers recent developments in constitutional scholarship, focusing on the idea of minimalism as appropriate to a regime with chastened ambitions. Tushnet discusses what we know so far about the impact of globalization on domestic constitutional law, particularly in the areas of international human rights and federalism. He concludes with predictions about the type of regulation we can expect from the new order. This is a major new analysis of the constitutional arrangements in the United States. Though it will not be received without controversy, it offers real explanatory and predictive power and provides important insights to both legal theorists and political scientists.
John Marshall (1755--1835) was arguably the most important judicial figure in American history. As the fourth chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from 1801 to1835, he helped move the Court from the fringes of power to the epicenter of constitutional government. His great opinions in cases like Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland are still part of the working discourse of constitutional law in America. Drawing on a new and definitive edition of Marshall's papers, R. Kent Newmyer combines engaging narrative with new historiographical insights in a fresh interpretation of John Marshall's life in the law. More than the summation of Marshall's legal and institutional accomplishments, Newmyer's impressive study captures the nuanced texture of the justice's reasoning, the complexity of his mature jurisprudence, and the affinities and tensions between his system of law and the transformative age in which he lived. It substantiates Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.'s view of Marshall as the most representative figure in American law.
Originalism is a force to be reckoned with in constitutional interpretation. At one time a monolithic theory of constitutional interpretation, contemporary originalism has developed into a sophisticated family of theories about how to interpret and reason with a constitution. Contemporary originalists harness the resources of linguistic, moral, and political philosophy to propose methodologies for the interpretation of constitutional texts and provide reasons for fidelity to those texts. The essays in this volume, which includes contributions from the flag bearers of several competing schools of constitutional interpretation, provides an introduction to the development of originalist thought, showcases the great range of contemporary originalist constitutional scholarship, and situates competing schools of thought in dialogue with each other. They also make new contributions to the methodological and normative disputes between originalists and non-originalists, and among originalists themselves.
Ronald Dworkin famously argued that fidelity in interpreting the Constitution as written calls for a fusion of constitutional law and moral philosophy. Barber and Fleming take up that call, arguing for a philosophic approach to constitutional interpretation. In doing so, they systematically critique the competing approaches - textualism, consensualism, originalism, structuralism, doctrinalism, minimalism, and pragmatism - that aim and claim to avoid a philosophic approach. Constitutional Interpretation: The Basic Questions illustrates that these approaches cannot avoid philosophic reflection and choice in interpreting the Constitution. Barber and Fleming contend that fidelity in constitutional interpretation requires a fusion of philosophic and other approaches, properly understood. Within such a fusion, interpreters would begin to think of text, consensus, intentions, structures, and doctrines not as alternatives to, but as sites of philosophic reflection about the best understanding of our constitutional commitments. Constitutional Interpretation: The Basic Questions examines the fundamental inquiries that arise in interpreting constitutional law. In doing so, the authors survey the controversial and intriguing questions that have stirred constitutional debate in the United States for over two centuries, such as: how and for what ends should governmental institutions and powers be arranged; what does the Constitution mean under general circumstances and how should it be interpreted during concrete controversies; and finally how do we decide what our constitution means and who ultimately decides its meaning.
By revisiting Thomas Jefferson's understanding of executive power this book offers a new understanding of the origins of presidential power. Before Jefferson was elected president, he arrived at a way to resolve the tension between constitutionalism and executive power. Because his solution would preserve a strict interpretation of the Constitution as well as transform the precedents left by his Federalist predecessors, it provided an alternative to Alexander Hamilton's understanding of executive power. In fact, a more thorough account of Jefferson's political career suggests that Jefferson envisioned an executive that was powerful, or 'energetic', because it would be more explicitly attached to the majority will. Jefferson's Revolution of 1800, often portrayed as a reversal of the strong presidency, was itself premised on energy in the executive and was part of Jefferson's project to enable the Constitution to survive and even flourish in a world governed by necessity.
The Surprising Political Career of America's Founding Document
Author: Andrew Busch
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
The Constitution is the fundamental governing document of the United States. But to what extent do candidates and parties make constitutional arguments in the course of American elections? By examining party platforms, candidate messages, presidential debates, and television ads, The Constitution on the Campaign Trail answers that question, and the results are fascinating. Busch finds evidence for both a long, broad decline in the use of constitutional rhetoric since the mid-19th century and a limited resurgence in that rhetoric over the last four decades. The political analysis found here is firmly grounded in historical research and the conclusions reached are trenchant.
The framers of the Constitution chose their words carefully when they wrote of a more perfect union--not absolutely perfect, but with room for improvement. Indeed, we no longer operate under the same Constitution as that ratified in 1788, or even the one completed by the Bill of Rights in 1791--because we are no longer the same nation. In The Revolutionary Constitution, David J. Bodenhamer provides a comprehensive new look at America's basic law, integrating the latest legal scholarship with historical context to highlight how it has evolved over time. The Constitution, he notes, was the product of the first modern revolution, and revolutions are, by definition, moments when the past shifts toward an unfamiliar future, one radically different from what was foreseen only a brief time earlier. In seeking to balance power and liberty, the framers established a structure that would allow future generations to continually readjust the scale. Bodenhamer explores this dynamic through seven major constitutional themes: federalism, balance of powers, property, representation, equality, rights, and security. With each, he takes a historical approach, following their changes over time. For example, the framers wrote multiple protections for property rights into the Constitution in response to actions by state governments after the Revolution. But twentieth-century courts--and Congress--redefined property rights through measures such as zoning and the designation of historical landmarks (diminishing their commercial value) in response to the needs of a modern economy. The framers anticipated just such a future reworking of their own compromises between liberty and power. With up-to-the-minute legal expertise and a broad grasp of the social and political context, this book is a tour de force of Constitutional history and analysis.
In Constitutional Identity, Gary Jeffrey Jacobsohn argues that a constitution acquires an identity through experience—from a mix of the political aspirations and commitments that express a nation’s past and the desire to transcend that past. It is changeable but resistant to its own destruction, and manifests itself in various ways, as Jacobsohn shows in examples as far flung as India, Ireland, Israel, and the United States. Jacobsohn argues that the presence of disharmony—both the tensions within a constitutional order and those that exist between a constitutional document and the society it seeks to regulate—is critical to understanding the theory and dynamics of constitutional identity. He explores constitutional identity’s great practical importance for some of constitutionalism’s most vexing questions: Is an unconstitutional constitution possible? Is the judicial practice of using foreign sources to resolve domestic legal disputes a threat to vital constitutional interests? How are the competing demands of transformation and preservation in constitutional evolution to be balanced?
The Presidency, the Supreme Court, and Constitutional Leadership in U.S. History
Author: Keith E. Whittington
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Should the Supreme Court have the last word when it comes to interpreting the Constitution? The justices on the Supreme Court certainly seem to think so--and their critics say that this position threatens democracy. But Keith Whittington argues that the Court's justices have not simply seized power and circumvented politics. The justices have had power thrust upon them--by politicians, for the benefit of politicians. In this sweeping political history of judicial supremacy in America, Whittington shows that presidents and political leaders of all stripes have worked to put the Court on a pedestal and have encouraged its justices to accept the role of ultimate interpreters of the Constitution. Whittington examines why presidents have often found judicial supremacy to be in their best interest, why they have rarely assumed responsibility for interpreting the Constitution, and why constitutional leadership has often been passed to the courts. The unprecedented assertiveness of the Rehnquist Court in striking down acts of Congress is only the most recent example of a development that began with the founding generation itself. Presidential bids for constitutional leadership have been rare, but reflect the temporary political advantage in doing so. Far more often, presidents have cooperated in increasing the Court's power and encouraging its activism. Challenging the conventional wisdom that judges have usurped democracy, Whittington shows that judicial supremacy is the product of democratic politics.
Federalism, Popular Sovereignty, and Constitutional Development in Jacksonian Illinois
Author: Gerald Leonard
Publisher: Univ of North Carolina Press
Category: Political Science
This ambitious work uncovers the constitutional foundations of that most essential institution of modern democracy, the political party. Taking on Richard Hofstadter's classic The Idea of a Party System, it rejects the standard view that Martin Van Buren and other Jacksonian politicians had the idea of a modern party system in mind when they built the original Democratic party. Grounded in an original retelling of Illinois politics of the 1820s and 1830s, the book also includes chapters that connect the state-level narrative to national history, from the birth of the Constitution to the Dred Scott case. In this reinterpretation, Jacksonian party-builders no longer anticipate twentieth-century political assumptions but draw on eighteenth-century constitutional theory to justify a party division between "the democracy" and "the aristocracy." Illinois is no longer a frontier latecomer to democratic party organization but a laboratory in which politicians use Van Buren's version of the Constitution, states' rights, and popular sovereignty to reeducate a people who had traditionally opposed party organization. The modern two-party system is no longer firmly in place by 1840. Instead, the system remains captive to the constitutional commitments on which the Democrats and Whigs founded themselves, even as the specter of sectional crisis haunts the parties' constitutional visions.
Perhaps the most essential distillation of the Founders' vision of America, The Federalist Papers consist of a series of 85 essays in favor of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Attributed to Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, the essays tackle an array of topics that are just as relevant today as they were more than 200 years ago, including human rights, republican governance, the proper scope and jurisdiction of a federal government, and much more.
For more than two hundred years a debate has raged between those who believe that jurists should follow the original intentions of the Founding Fathers and those who argue that the Constitution is a living document subject to interpretation by each succeeding generation. The controversy has flared anew in our own time as a facet of the battle between conservatives and liberals. In Original Intent and the Framers' Constitution, the distinguished constitutional scholar Leonard Levy cuts through the Gordian Knot of claim and counterclaim with an argument that is clear, logical, and compelling. Rejecting the views of both left and right, he evaluates the doctrine of "original intent" by examining the sources of constitutional law and landmark cases. Finally, he finds no evidence for grounding the law in original intent. Judicial activism—the constant reinterpretation of the Constitution—he sees as inevitable.
Arguably no political principle has been more central than the separation of powers to the evolution of constitutional governance in Western democracies. In the definitive work on the subject, M. J. C. Vile traces the history of the doctrine from its rise during the English Civil War, through its development in the eighteenth century—when it was indispensable to the founders of the American republic—through subsequent political thought and constitution-making in Britain, France, and the United States. The author concludes with an examination of criticisms of the doctrine by both behavioralists and centralizers—and with "A Model of a Theory of Constitutionalism." The new Liberty Fund second edition includes the entirety of the original 1967 text published by Oxford, a major epilogue entitled "The Separation of Powers and the Administrative State," and a bibliography. M. J. C. Vile is Professor of Politics at the University of Kent at Canterbury and author also of The Structure of American Federalism.
Originalism and living constitutionalism, often seen as opposing views, are not in conflict. So argues Jack Balkin, a leading constitutional scholar, in this long-awaited book. Step by step, Balkin shows how both liberals and conservatives play important roles in constitutional construction, and offers a way past the angry polemics of our era.
Originalism holds that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted according to its meaning at the time it was enacted. In their innovative defense of originalism, John McGinnis and Michael Rappaport maintain that the text of the Constitution should be adhered to by the Supreme Court because it was enacted by supermajorities--both its original enactment under Article VII and subsequent Amendments under Article V. A text approved by supermajorities has special value in a democracy because it has unusually wide support and thus tends to maximize the welfare of the greatest number. The authors recognize and respond to many possible objections. Does originalism perpetuate the dead hand of the past? How can originalism be justified, given the exclusion of African Americans and women from the Constitution and many of its subsequent Amendments? What is originalism's place in interpretation, after two hundred years of non-originalist precedent? A fascinating counterfactual they pose is this: had the Supreme Court not interpreted the Constitution so freely, perhaps the nation would have resorted to the Article V amendment process more often and with greater effect. Their book will be an important contribution to the literature on originalism, now the most prominent theory of constitutional interpretation.