We the People: Volume 2: Transformations
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Constitutional change, seemingly so orderly, formal, and refined, has in fact been a revolutionary process from the first, as Bruce Ackerman makes clear in We the People: Transformations. The Founding Fathers, hardly the genteel conservatives of myth, set America on a remarkable course of revolutionary disruption and constitutional creativity that endures to this day. After the bloody sacrifices of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party revolutionized the traditional system of constitutional amendment as they put principles of liberty and equality into higher law. Another wrenching transformation occurred during the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt and his New Dealers vindicated a new vision of activist government against an assault by the Supreme Court.
These are the crucial episodes in American constitutional history that Ackerman takes up in this second volume of a trilogy hailed as "one of the most important contributions to American constitutional thought in the last half-century" (Cass Sunstein, New Republic). In each case he shows how the American people--whether led by the Founding Federalists or the Lincoln Republicans or the Roosevelt Democrats--have confronted the Constitution in its moments of great crisis with dramatic acts of upheaval, always in the name of popular sovereignty. A thoroughly new way of understanding constitutional development, We the People: Transformations reveals how America's "dualist democracy" provides for these populist upheavals that amend the Constitution, often without formalities.
The book also sets contemporary events, such as the Reagan Revolution and Roe v. Wade, in deeper constitutional perspective. In this context Ackerman exposes basic constitutional problems inherited from the New Deal Revolution and exacerbated by the Reagan Revolution, then considers the fundamental reforms that might resolve them. A bold challenge to formalist and fundamentalist views, this volume demonstrates that ongoing struggle over America's national identity, rather than consensus, marks its constitutional history.
moved to “leav[e] the states to pursue their own modes of ratiªcation.” This immediately led Daniel Carroll of Maryland to open another hornet’s nest: “Mr. Carrol [sic] mentioned the mode of altering the Constitution of Maryland pointed out therein, and that no other mode could be pursued in that State.”68 Madison tried to reassure the delegates: The difªculty in Maryland was no greater than in other States, where no mode of change was pointed out by the Constitution, and all ofªcers were under
support of a numerous body of our constituents.130 This theme dominates the entire letter, which urges the governors to ask their legislatures to call a second convention. ∂ I hope you have been keeping in mind the contrarian scenario which introduced this analysis: Suppose that the Continental Congress had repudiated the Convention’s nine-state rule and had repeatedly declared itself duty-bound to defend the Articles’ proud assertion that “the Union shall be perpetual” unless and until all
triggering, ratifying, and consolidating. Unsurprisingly, each generation of revolutionary reformers used different institutional tools to solve their common problems—and it will take a good deal of time and effort to compare and contrast them. In the end, however, the effort will be rewarded by fresh insights into the enduring dynamics of the American constitutional system. Despite the very important differences in institutional technique elaborated over the generations, there are fundamental
Johnson, he was no Copperhead. Nor was Secretary Seward—one of the early leaders of the Republican Party15 who bore the wounds of Lincoln’s assassins. If Johnson and Seward could be induced to accept the need for a temporary exclusion of the South, this would vastly reinforce the Convention/Congress’s claims to authority. More than symbolic politics was involved. Johnson would be a formidable enemy. His power over patronage would allow him to organize party workers in every district against
confront exquisite moments of self-conscious indeterminacy. While great events may have disrupted old formulas, they do not carry a clear legal meaning of their own. Debate turns to competing interpretations of the disruptive events, as the protagonists seek to ªll the interpretive gap with different meanings. But how to determine which of the contenders will emerge victorious? The problem, in our case, was posed by the election of 1866. Formally speaking, the Republican victory at the polls