The Constitutional Amending Process in American Political Thought

The Constitutional Amending Process in American Political Thought

The Constitutional Amending Process in American Political Thought

The Constitutional Amending Process in American Political Thought

Synopsis

This book is the first full-length work to present debates over the constitutional amending process as a perennial theme in American political thought. Beginning with a discussion of the views of political philosophers, publicists, and legal commentators who may have influenced the views of legal change held by the American Founding Fathers, the work proceeds to look at the historical influences on and discussions surrounding the amending process that was incorporated into Article V of the U.S. Constitution. The reader will gain a new respect for the way the amending process has served and still serves as a "safety valve" for constitutional change in the United States without permitting ill-considered or hastily conceived modifications.

Excerpt

I have been writing and thinking about the constitutional amending process for more than a dozen years, a time during which no national amendments have been ratified but scores of good articles and books have been published on the subject. Many of these publications suggest that my fascination with the topic of amendments has been justified and that a proper understanding of the amending process illuminates such topics as the nature of the American political system, the balance that it embodies between natural rights and popular sovereignty, the relation between the judiciary and the elected branches of government, and a host of other important issues.

While I have profited immensely from existing scholarly work on the amending process, I believe that this literature has given inadequate attention to the work of prior theorists in this field. Most writings, understandably prompted by modern concerns, jump from a quick review of statements in colonial charters and/or statements made at the U.S. Constitutional Convention to a discussion of an individual amendment or amendments or to one or another modern day controversy, with little attention to what happened in between. In conducting my own research, however, I have discovered that there is a rich legacy of commentary on the constitutional amending process that more clearly illuminates this topic and that casts further light on the historical development of the Constitution.

While Americans tend to think of the amending process as unique, they sometimes forget that political theorists had been discussing legal change and stability for centuries; such views, and their possible influences, are the subject of Chapter 1 of this book. Chapter 2 follows with a discussion of events at the Constitutional Convention and arguments, most notably by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton under the pen name Publius, that . . .

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