Selected Papers of Homer Cummings, Attorney General of the United States, 1933-1939

By Carl Brent Swisher; Homer S. Cummings | Go to book overview

12, Constitutional Adaptation

[In other decisions in fields already discussed and in cases decided in other fields since the early months of 1937 when the Court Plan was under discussion, the Supreme Court has shown a lively interest in the adjustment of principles of constitutional interpretation to the needs of the present day. Opinions have been phrased no less in terms of precedents than in former times, but many present at the argument of cases and those carefully reading opinions notice a new alertness in the search for workable principles, and a lack of interest in past decisions merely because they are past decisions. This attitude, while it lasts, promises well for the success of carefully planned federal legislation enacted in the public interest. Ed.]


From an article on "Nature of the Amending Process" (for complete text, see the George Washington Law Review for March, 1938, v. 6, pp. 247-258; or The Congressional Record for May 19, 1938):

THOSE who have followed the trend of recent constitutional decisions are fully aware of a marked change in the judicial attitude with reference to the powers of the Congress. The Supreme Court, by a sharp reversal of viewpoint, has demonstrated anew the resiliency of the Constitution and its adaptability to new conditions as they arise. It is not presently necessary to assess the causes that wrought this change and permitted the yeast of liberalism to leaven the whole loaf. It is interesting, however, to recall the fact that when the Supreme Court controversy was at its height, suggestions were frequently made that the purposes sought to be achieved should be brought about by constitutional amendment and by that method alone. The theory was advanced that by the amending process a virtual referendum by the people could be obtained and their will thereby ascertained. * * *

Although over 2,600 constitutional amendments have been introduced from time to time, the Constitution has been amended on only ten different occasions during the 150 years of its exis-

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