The Supreme Court: Palladium of Freedom

By Alpheus Thomas Mason | Go to book overview

II. BUTTRESSES OF FREEDOM

The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts.

-- Robert H. Jackson

History, as Carl Becker might have said, is the punishment the present inflicts on the past. In search of support for any particular action or decision, scholars and politicians, not excluding Supreme Court Justices, are wont to recite and recount history. Response to this temptation is both natural and desirable. "The past is intelligible to us," E. H. Carr writes in his provocative reply to What is History? "only in the light of the present; and we can fully understand the present only in the light of the past. To enable man to understand the society of the past and to increase his mastery over the society of the present is the dual function of history."1 The way history is utilized provides clues to how we think about our own society and its problems.

Now, as during our formative years, three major concepts occupy the minds of Americans: Revolution, the motif of change, experimentation, adaptation; Bill of Rights, the idea of a realm of individual sovereignty, beyond the control of government; Judicial Review meaning, in the broad sense, oversight by a body remote from the pressures of partisan politics, playing the dual role of legitimizing public power and safeguarding a domain of individual rights deemed relatively free from government regulation and control. Closely interwoven in the intricate fabric of American constitutionalism, these threads are accented in recent Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court: Palladium of Freedom
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • I. Political System Without a Model 1
  • Ii. Buttresses of Freedom 33
  • Iii. Cementing the Keystone 63
  • IV- from Judicial Review to Judicial Supremacy: Jefferson and Marshall 90
  • V- from Judicial Review to Judicial Supremacy: Roosevelt and Hughes 116
  • Vi. Shoring the Foundations 149
  • Notes 179
  • Index 203
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