The Growth of American Constitutional Law

By Benjamin F. Wright | Go to book overview

Chapter VI
UMPIRING THE FEDERAL SYSTEM

BETWEEN 1790 and the end of 1898 there were 23 cases in which Congressional statutes were held contrary to the Constitution. From 1899 to 1937 there were 55. In the same period there were 401 decisions invalidating state legislation, a figure considerably more than twice as large as that for the preceding thirty-eight years, and over six times as great as that for the first seventy-five years of the Court's history.

These raw statistics are, of themselves, sufficient to demonstrate just two things: the greatly increased use of the judicial veto, and the impossibility of discussing adequately either the scope or the incidence of judicial review within a brief compass. In this and the following chapters no such task can or will be attempted. An attempt will be made to consider some of the principal lines of development, to illustrate, rather than to describe, the incidence of the decisions of unconstitutionality, and to point out some of the rulings which indicate how broad was the area of discretion within which the Court functioned. For the most part those decisions and groups of decisions which culminate in the destructive rulings of 1935 and 1936 will be emphasized. This will be done not because they are always of greater intrinsic importance than many others which might well be taken up at length, but because of their contribution to the constitutional crisis of 1937.

Except for the group of cases dealing with the Roosevelt

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