A Community Built on Words: The Constitution in History and Politics
H. Jefferson Powell offers a powerful new approach to one of the central issues in American constitutional thinking today: the problem of constitutional law's historicity, or the many ways in which constitutional arguments and outcomes are shaped both by historical circumstances and by the political goals and commitments of various actors, including judges. The presence of such influences is often considered highly problematic: if constitutional law is political and historical through and through, then what differentiates it from politics per se, and what gives it integrity and coherence? Powell argues that constitutional theory has as its (sometimes hidden) agenda the ambition of showing how constitutional law can escape from history and politics, while much constitutional history seeks to identify an historically true meaning of the constitutional text that, once uncovered, can serve as a corrective to subsequent deviations from that truth.
Combining history and theory, Powell analyzes a series of constitutional controversies from 1790 to 1944 to demonstrate that constitutional law from its very beginning has involved politically charged and ideologically divisive arguments. Nowhere in our past can one find the golden age of apolitical constitutional thinking that a great deal of contemporary scholarship seeks or presupposes. Viewed over time, American constitutional law is a history of political dispute couched in constitutional terms.
Powell then takes his conclusions one step further, claiming that it is precisely this historical tradition of argument that has given American constitutional law a remarkable coherence and integrity over time. No matter what the particular political disputes of the day might be, constitutional argument has provided a shared language through which our political community has been able to fight out its battles without ultimately fracturing.
A Community Built on Words will be must reading for any student of constitutional history, theory, or law.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Other editions - View all
11 Annals Ableman afﬁrmative African Americans American constitutional argued Article attorney authority bill of rights Bonus Bill Chief Justice citizens citizenship civil claim clause Congress Congress’s powers congressional consti constitutional interpretation constitutional law constitutionalism construction conviction Court’s Cushing Davis debate decision deﬁned deﬁnition difﬁcult disagreement dissenting duty enforce ex post facto executive exercise February February 20 federal courts Federalist ﬁnal ﬁrst amendment fourteenth amendment freedom fundamental glebes habeas corpus Hamilton Holmes House issue James Madison Jefferson John Johnson judges judgment judicial review judiciary jurisdiction Kamper Korematsu Legaré legislation legislature liberty limited Madison Marshall Marshall’s meaning ment ofﬁce ofﬁcers ofﬁcials opinion Paterson political practice president president’s principle provisions question Randolph reason repeal Republican Roane role Rufﬁn Sedition Act Senate signiﬁcance slave slavery speciﬁc state’s statute Supreme Court t]he tion tional Tucker Turpin tutional U.S. Supreme Court unconstitutional United Virginia Washington Wirt written Constitution Wythe Wythe’s