The Growth of American Constitutional Law

By Benjamin F. Wright | Go to book overview

Chapter V
THE EMERGENCE OF MODERN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

BETWEEN 1865 and 1937 there are no clear and definite breaks in the development of judicial review. There are changes of doctrine and there are variations in the kind and number of legislative acts which come before the Court, just as there are variations in the training, experience, and outlook of the Justices who took office during this period. But the process of judicial review continued without any basic interruption from wars, inventions, economic depressions, or changes of administration. The power of the Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of legislation had become an accepted part of American life. There were, as will be pointed out, controversies over its power and its rulings, but none of those episodes is of sufficient stature to afford an excuse for a stopping point in a survey of Supreme Court history.

There being no natural break an artificial one must be made, if only because the bulk of material becomes so great that it cannot be well discussed in a single, uninterrupted sequence. Although the date is not signalized by any one episode or decision of outstanding importance, I think that the end of the year 1898 is a desirable point at which to pause and take stock. There are tendencies pointing toward an enlarged sphere for the judicial power which begin a few years after the Civil War and which reach maturity be-

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