The Right to the Assistance of Counsel: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution

The Right to the Assistance of Counsel: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution

The Right to the Assistance of Counsel: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution

The Right to the Assistance of Counsel: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution

Synopsis

Inaugurating Greenwood's Reference Guides to the United States Constitution series, this superlative guide to the Sixth Amendment is the first to survey the legal guarantee of counsel's assistance since 1963's Gideon ruling. The vast majority of important, even landmark cases regarding the right to counsel were decided after that pivotal ruling, making this the definitive work on the topic. Tomkovicz offers a concise yet substantial account of the historical development of the right to counsel in England and America.

Excerpt

One can conceive of the United States Constitution in many ways. For example, noticing the reverence in which it has been held can induce one to think of it as an equivalent of a sacred text, although unfortunately most of its devotees have had less knowledge and even less understanding of it than they have had reverence for it. It sometimes appears to be primarily a political document and on that basis has been subjected to analysis, such as Charles Beard’s economic analysis of it. One can plausibly argue that the Constitution seems most astounding when it is seen in the light of the intellectual effort that has been associated with it. Three brief but highly intense bursts of intellectual energy produced, and established as organic law, most of the Constitution as it now exists. Two efforts that have been sustained over a long period of time have enabled us better to understand that document.

The first burst of energy occurred at the Constitutional Convention. Although some of the delegates’ business, such as the struggle between populous and nonpopulous states about their representation in Congress, was political, much of it was about fundamental issues of political theory. A few of the delegates had or later achieved international eminence for their intellects. Among them are Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Others, although less well known, had first-rate minds. That group includes George Mason and George Wythe. Many of the delegates intelligently contributed. Although the convention’s records are less than satisfactory, they indicate clearly enough that the delegates worked mightily to constitute not merely a polity but a rational polity that would rise to the standards envisioned by the intellectual ancestors who influenced the delegates. Their product, although brief, is amazing. William Gladstone called it “the most wonderful work ever struck off.”

Despite the delegates’ eminence and the Constitution’s excellence, as seen from our place in history, its ratification was far from certain. That state of

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