The Johns Hopkins University Press

The Johns Hopkins Series in Constitutional Thought

Sanford Levinson and Jeffrey K. Tulis, Series Editors

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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The Johns Hopkins Series in Constitutional Thought

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Constituting Federal Sovereignty

The European Union in Comparative Context

Leslie Friedman Goldstein

Starting from the premise that the system of independent, sovereign, territorial states, which was the subject of political science and international relations studies in the twentieth century, has entered a transition toward something new, noted political scientist Leslie F. Goldstein examines the development of the European Union by blending comparative and historical institutionalist approaches. She argues that the most useful framework for understanding the kinds of "supra-state" formations that are increasingly apparent in the beginning of the third millennium is comparative analysis of the formative epochs of federations of the past that formed voluntarily from previously independent states. In Constituting Federal Sovereignty: The European Union in Comparative Context Goldstein identifies three significant predecessors to today's European Union: the Dutch Union of the 17th century, the United States of America from the 1787 Constitution to the Civil War, and the first half-century of the modern Swiss federation, beginning in 1848. She examines the processes by which federalization took place, what made for its success, and what contributed to its problems. She explains why resistance to federal authority, although similar in kind, varied significantly in degree in the cases examined. And she explores the crucial roles played by such factors as sovereignty-honoring elements within the institutional structure of the federation, the circumstances of its formation (revolt against distant empire versus aftermath of war among member states), and notably, the internal culture of respect for the rule of law in the member states.

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Constitutional Context

Women and Rights Discourse in Nineteenth-Century America

Kathleen S. Sullivan

While the United States was founded on abstract principles of certain “unalienable rights,” its legal traditions are based in British common law, a fact long decried by progressive reformers. Common law, the complaint goes, ignores abstract rights principles in favor of tradition, effectively denying equality to large segments of the population. The nineteenth-century women’s rights movement embraced this argument, claiming that common law rules of property and married women’s status were at odds with the nation's commitment to equality. Conventional wisdom suggests that this tactic helped pave the way for voting rights and better jobs. In Constitutional Context, Kathleen S. Sullivan presents a fresh perspective. In revisiting the era’s congressional debates, state legislation, judicial opinions, news accounts, and work of political activists, Sullivan finds that the argument for universal, abstract rights was not the only, or best, path available for social change. Rather than erecting a new paradigm of absolute rights, she argues, women’s rights activists unwittingly undermined common law’s ability to redress grievances, contributing heavily to the social, cultural, and political stagnation that characterizes the place of women and the movement today. A challenging and thoughtful study of what is commonly thought of as an era of progress, Constitutional Context provides the groundwork for a more comprehensive understanding and interpretation of constitutional law.

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From Words to Worlds

Exploring Constitutional Functionality

Beau Breslin

In the 225 years since the United States Constitution was first drafted, no single book has addressed the key questions of what constitutions are designed to do, how they are structured, and why they matter. In From Words to Worlds, constitutional scholar Beau Breslin corrects this glaring oversight, singling out the essential functions that a modern, written constitution must incorporate in order to serve as a nation’s fundamental law. Breslin lays out and explains the basic functions of a modern constitution—including creating a new citizenry, structuring the institutions of government, regulating conflict between layers and branches of government, and limiting the power of the sovereign. He also discusses the theoretical concepts behind the fundamentals of written constitutions and examines in depth some of the most important constitutional charters from around the world. In assaying how states put structural ideas into practice, Breslin asks probing questions about why—and if—constitutions matter. Solidly argued and engagingly written, this comparative study in constitutional thought demonstrates clearly the key components that a state’s foundational document must address. Breslin draws a critically important distinction between constitutional texts and constitutional practice.

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The Madisonian Constitution

George Thomas

Today, we think of constitutional questions as being settled by the Supreme Court. But that is not always the case, nor is it what the framers intended in constructing the three-branch federal government. This volume examines four crucial moments in the United States' political history—the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Progressive Era, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency and the New Deal, and the Reagan revolution—to illustrate the Madisonian view that the present rise of judicial supremacy actually runs counter to the Constitution as established at the nation’s founding. George Thomas opens by discussing how the Constitution encourages an antagonistic approach to settling disputes, thereby preserving itself as the nation's fundamental law rather then ceding that role to the president, Congress, or Supreme Court. In considering the four historical case studies, he focuses on judicial interpretations and the political branches' responses to them to demonstrate that competing conceptions of constitutional authority and meaning, as well as intergovernmental disputes themselves—rather than any specific outcome—strengthen the nature of the nation's founding document as a political instrument. Engagingly written and soundly argued, this study clarifies and highlights the political origins of the nation's foundational document and argues that American constitutionalism is primarily about countervailing power not legal limits enforced by courts.

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Originalism in American Law and Politics

A Constitutional History

Johnathan O'Neill

This book explains how the debate over originalism emerged from the interaction of constitutional theory, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and American political development. Refuting the contention that originalism is a recent concoction of political conservatives like Robert Bork, Johnathan O'Neill asserts that recent appeals to the origin of the Constitution in Supreme Court decisions and commentary, especially by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, continue an established pattern in American history. Originalism in American Law and Politics is distinguished by its historical approach to the topic. Drawing on constitutional commentary and treatises, Supreme Court and lower federal court opinions, congressional hearings, and scholarly monographs, O'Neill's work will be valuable to historians, academic lawyers, and political scientists.

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Outside the Law

Emergency and Executive Power

Clement Fatovic

The origins of presidential claims to extraconstitutional powers during national crises are contentious points of debate among constitutional and legal scholars. The Constitution is silent on the matter, yet from Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War to George W. Bush’s creation of the “enemy combatants” label, a number of presidents have invoked emergency executive power in defense of actions not specifically endorsed in the Constitution or granted by Congress. Taking up the debate, Clement Fatovic digs into the intellectual history of the nation’s founding to argue that the originators of liberal constitutional theory explicitly endorsed the use of extraordinary, extralegal measures to deal with genuine national emergencies. He traces the evolution of thought on the matter through the writings of John Locke, David Hume, William Blackstone, and the founding fathers, finding in them stated support for what Locke termed “prerogative,” tempered by a carefully construed concept of public-oriented virtues. Fatovic maintains that the founders believed that moral character and republican decency would restrain the president from abusing this grant of enhanced authority and ensure that it remained temporary. This engaging, carefully considered survey of the conceptions of executive power in constitutional thought explains how liberalism's founders attempted to reconcile the principles of constitutional government with the fact that some circumstances would demand that an executive take normally proscribed actions. Scholars of liberalism, the American founding, and the American presidency will find Fatovic's reasoned arguments against the conventional wisdom enlightening.

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