New York State and the
FOR TOO LONG Americans have tended to identify their constitutional tradition with the U.S. Constitution and its development. This identification has fostered neglect of state constitutions and their constitutional traditions, and created a misunderstanding as to the character of the national constitutional experience. 1 That experience is a complex interaction of state and national constitutional development, an interplay that gave rise to and sustains the federal system.
A proper understanding of our constitutional tradition should begin at least as early as the eleven years between 1776 and 1787, a period in which the original states adopted constitutions. These state constitutions were the culmination of a long colonial tradition and it was an age during which the states, first separately and then as a nation, more or less invented written constitutions. The U.S Constitution is derived from these constitutions by way of imitation or via a negative reaction to what was perceived as their missteps. This interaction did not cease with the adoption of the national charter. Newly admitted states sought guidance from the national document and from their sister states. 2
The national Constitution is dependent on state constitutions in a more immediate and direct fashion. Without them, as Donald Lutz has pointed out, the national Constitution is, in a number of ways, an "incomplete document." The states are referred to fifty times in forty- two separate sections of the U.S. Constitution. Striking evidence of this dependence is evident when one realizes that the U.S. Constitution does not contain a definition of citizenship! 3
Despite the growth of the national government and the expansion of national constitutional power, state constitutions continue to be an indispensable part of the American Constitution and our constitutional tradition. Reference to this constitutional tradition must include not only the national Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, but also the state constitutions. The group traditionally understood as