Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York

Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York

Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York

Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York

Synopsis

The impending 1997 mandate to place before the voters the question on whether to convene a convention to revise and amend the New York Constitution becomes increasingly important and deserving of careful attention. Ordered Liberty provides a comprehensive chronicle of the constitutional history of New York state. There exists no single or multi-volumed work in print which examines this crucial history. This volume, bringing all previously published studies up to date, uses as its organizational frame the nine constitutional conventions in New York history and the constitutions each produced. Each convention is placed in its political, legal, and economic context- the work of the convention is examined, and the political theory reflected in each is explained. Finally, an assessment of each convention's accomplishments is presented. Subsequent sections of the volume examine appropriate methods to achieve that reform. An extensive bibliographical essay of primary and secondary sources on the state's constitutional history is provided.

Excerpt

Writing constitutional history is an enterprise that is currently not in vogue in academic circles. The "new" social history has shifted the focus and redirected the energies of a generation of historians. However productive this shift has been, it has nonetheless created an unfortunate consequence: the neglect of state constitutional history, an area traditionally ignored by scholars. Nowhere is this more prominently illustrated than in New York State. There is no constitutional history of New York currently in print. The most comprehensive constitutional history of the state was a five-volume work published in 1906 under the title A Constitutional History of New York From the Beginning of the Colonial Period to the Year 1905 by Charles Z. Lincoln. Lincoln was a legal advisor to Governors Morton, Black, and Roosevelt and a delegate to the constitutional convention of 1894. His work, one of the best produced by lawyers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is a documentary history, containing copies of all the constitutions and amendments adopted between 1777 and 1905. His commentary, though primarily legal in approach, is reliable and, by the standards of the day, free from partisan bias. That work, however, is out of print as well as out of date. The only one-volume constitutional history of New York is J. Hampden Dougherty A Constitutional History of New York, published in a second edition in 1915. Like Lincoln's, it is dated and out of print.

This is not to say that there has been no research since these early twentieth-century works. Indeed, monographs, articles, reports, and dissertations on various aspects of New York's constitutional tradition have appeared. While other scholars have done justice to particular constitutional conventions and developments, the 225 years of the state's constitutional tradition has not been addressed as a whole. The present work hopes to offer the reader a single-volume account of New York State constitutional history that augments and extends the work of Lincoln and Dougherty with the more specialized scholarship of recent years. It makes no claims to novel understandings of the tradition and relies heavily on the work of others, though of course I have made my own study of the primary sources.

Needless to say, any attempt to encompass two centuries of constitutional history in a single volume necessarily means selectivity and a focus on the dominant values and events which have shaped that his-

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