The Growth of American Constitutional Law

The Growth of American Constitutional Law

The Growth of American Constitutional Law

The Growth of American Constitutional Law

Excerpt

In this book I have attempted to give a brief account of the work of the Supreme Court of the United States in passing upon the constitutionality of legislation. The institution of judicial review of legislation has long seemed to me to be one of the American institutions of which it is essential to have some understanding in order to comprehend the course of American history or the character of American political life. It is a more peculiar feature of American history than, for example, the frontier movement, or immigration, or the growth of cities. It resembles less the constitutional laws and practices of other states than do the systems of checks and balances, or federalism, or adult suffrage, all of which have sometimes been spoken of as uniquely American.

Since the present book deals only with those decisions of the Supreme Court which consider the constitutionality of state or Congressional legislation it does not deal with the entire body of constitutional law, if that term be used in its broader sense. It does not, that is to say, deal with doctrines expressed in cases interpreting the meaning of statutes (except for a few deviations for the purpose of illustration), nor with decisions reviewing the findings of lower courts where the validity of legislation was not involved, nor with the review of administrative officers and commissions. It is concerned with constitutional law in its narrower sense, with what James Bradley Thayer, in his classic essay, called "The American Doctrine of Constitutional Law." Even within the bounds of "constitutionality" law it can, of course, make no pretence of complete coverage or of thorough analysis. It is offered only as a general survey and interpretation of this . . .

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