The Madisonian Constitution

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Overview

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.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Law and Politics Book Review - Douglas C. Dow

In this ambitious, densely written and thought provoking work, Thomas proposes a perspective on constitutional interpretation that is at once a normative theory of constitutional practice and a redescription of constitutional history informed by that practice.

Review of Politics - Benjamin Kleinerman

Thomas’s book paves an important new path for the rest of us in our study of the Constitution and its effect on politics. His account of Madison’s principle of constitutional contestation might well be the best account that yet exists of the reigning principle of our founder’s political thought.

Law and Society Review - Stanley C. Brubaker

In The Madisonian Constitution, Thomas charts a philosophically grounded and historically informed course... showing that James Madison and most others responsible for framing the Constitution, as well as major statesmen who followed, had a more prudent approach in mind.

Journal of American History - Gary L. McDowell

The Madisonian Constitution reminds readers of that moment when, as Justice Story said, the meaning of the fundamental law was something far more important than the mere lawyers' 'extraordinary gloss' it has become.

Claremont Review of Books - Michael P. Zuckert

Thomas’s Madison points the way to salvation from forms of constitutionalism that either place inordinate power in a small body of elite judges and lawyers, or give up on constitutional government altogether.

Law and History Review - Gerard N. Magliocca

The Madisonian Constitution is a valuable addition to the growing body of literature that seeks to provide a holistic view of how constitutional meaning develops.

Claremont Review of Books
Thomas’s Madison points the way to salvation from forms of constitutionalism that either place inordinate power in a small body of elite judges and lawyers, or give up on constitutional government altogether.

— Michael P. Zuckert

Journal of American History
The Madisonian Constitution reminds readers of that moment when, as Justice Story said, the meaning of the fundamental law was something far more important than the mere lawyers' 'extraordinary gloss' it has become.

— Gary L. McDowell

Law and Politics Book Review
In this ambitious, densely written and thought provoking work, Thomas proposes a perspective on constitutional interpretation that is at once a normative theory of constitutional practice and a redescription of constitutional history informed by that practice.

— Douglas C. Dow

Law and Society Review
In The Madisonian Constitution, Thomas charts a philosophically grounded and historically informed course... showing that James Madison and most others responsible for framing the Constitution, as well as major statesmen who followed, had a more prudent approach in mind.

— Stanley C. Brubaker

Review of Politics
Thomas’s book paves an important new path for the rest of us in our study of the Constitution and its effect on politics. His account of Madison’s principle of constitutional contestation might well be the best account that yet exists of the reigning principle of our founder’s political thought.

— Benjamin Kleinerman

Harvard Law Review

By departing from traditional perspectives on judicial review, Professor Thomas provides an unconventional, yet refreshing and historically grounded, view of how historical constitutional conflicts have fallen squarely within Madison's vision.

Law and History Review
The Madisonian Constitution is a valuable addition to the growing body of literature that seeks to provide a holistic view of how constitutional meaning develops.

— Gerard N. Magliocca

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801888526
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 7/3/2008
  • Series: The Johns Hopkins Series in Constitutional Thought
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,189,397
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

George Thomas is an assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. He previously taught at Williams College.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents


Preface     ix
Introduction     1
Madison's Complex Constitutionalism     14
Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Meaning of the Civil War Amendments     39
The Progressive Reconstruction of American Constitutionalism     65
Discontinuities in the "Constitutional Revolution of 1937"     94
Unsettling the New Deal and the Return of Originalism     126
Conclusion     156
Notes     171
Index     243
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