The Growth of American Constitutional Law

By Benjamin F. Wright | Go to book overview

Chapter XI
THE FUNCTION OF JUDICIAL REVIEW

IT WAS suggested in the introductory chapter that judicial review is our most characteristic, because our most unique political institution. It was further suggested that there must be a connection between this institution and the amazing longevity of the American Constitution. The expansion of that Constitution has been accomplished only in small degree by formal amendment. Adjustments made necessary by the vast changes in American life have been accomplished largely through interpretation. And the final interpreter has been the Supreme Court. To a much greater degree than was foreseen by the authors of the Constitution the Court has moulded the governmental processes, the social and economic practices, the very folkways of the country.


THE COURT AS PRODUCT

But if the Court has been a controlling force in American life, it has also been a product of that life. It was no independent agent above and apart from the culture of the country to which its decisions applied. In Mr. Dooley's famous phrase, the Supreme Court "follows th' eliction returns." In more academic, as well as more inclusive, language it may be said that the Court has always expressed the major movements in American history. Not just the election returns, and

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