The Constitution and Public Policy in U.S. History

The Constitution and Public Policy in U.S. History

Julian E. Zelizer
Bruce J. Schulman
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 201
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  • Book Info
    The Constitution and Public Policy in U.S. History
    Book Description:

    Despite its crucial importance in U.S. history, the study of the constitutional system fell out of favor with many historians and history departments for several decades during the latter half of the twentieth century. The dawn of the twenty-first century, however, has borne witness to a new interdisciplinary interest among scholars in reviving this important dialogue in American history. This book represents some of the most innovative contributions to this dialogue by a new generation of historians and legal scholars. The essays presented in this volume offer new insights into constitutionalism, legal culture, and the political arena, together contributing to an “ongoing reconceptualization of the historical relationship between the Constitution and public policy.” In this volume of Issues in Policy History, Julian Zelizer and Bruce Schulman bring together eleven essays from renowned scholars Mary Sarah Bilder, Donald T. Critchlow and Cynthia L. Stachecki, Christine Desan, Morton Keller, Ajay K. Mehrotra, David Quigley, John A. Thompson, Christopher Tomlins, and Michael Willrich. By applying new archival research to questions of policy history and embedding constitutional history in its political context, these scholars breathe new life into the study of public policy and reaffirm Woodrow Wilson’s conclusion that the Constitution’s “spirit is always the spirit of the age.”

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05508-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: The Constitution and Public Policy in U.S. History
    (pp. 1-5)

    In 1787, Francis Hopkinson, author, lawyer, composer, and statesman, penned “The New Roof: A Song for Federal Mechanics.” A signer of the Declaration of Independence and committed Federalist, Hopkinson saw the new Constitution as a sturdy, weatherproof covering for a “Mansion-house observed to be in a very bad condition.” Making the case for such thorough renovation of the nation’s political architecture so soon after the construction of the “old Confederation,” Hopkinson complained of a fractious American family, too much given over to intrigue, argument, and legal wrangling. He rested his hopes on judges and laws, supports that “divide right from...

  5. Idea or Practice: A Brief Historiography of Judicial Review
    (pp. 6-25)

    Judicial review may be the most publicly contested aspect of American constitutionalism. When courts void legislation, they implicitly seem to strike at the heart of the principle of separation of powers. The act inherently suggests that the elected legislature is not always the legitimate representative of the people and that democratic majoritarianism is not the fundamental principle of American politics. Because judicial review can be described in opposition to ideas often deemed fundamental to American constitutionalism, the origins of judicial review have intrigued scholars of politics, history, and law.¹ For the last century, the origins inquiry has started from the...

  6. From Blood to Profit: Making Money in the Practice and Imagery of Early America
    (pp. 26-46)

    Money, wrote Pennsylvanian Francis Rawle in 1725, is “the vital spirit and blood of the body politick.”¹ Is not money, another pamphleteer contended, “the blood of life, which circulates from member to member, throughout the whole body of all living creatures?”² It followed that the tokens acting as the medium of value could be anything, “whether it be pewter, silver, spelter, brass or paper, matters not which.”³ Americans in fact used provincial tax credit notes for money, along with other specie substitutes: “bills of credit” were issued to public creditors and could be employed by the holder or others to...

  7. Necessities of State: Police, Sovereignty, and the Constitution
    (pp. 47-63)

    Over the last fifteen years, legal historians have been exploring conceptualizations of the state and state capacity as phenomena of police.¹ In this essay, I offer a genealogy of police in nineteenth-century American constitutional law. I examine relationships among several distinct strands of development: domestic regulatory law, notably the commerce power; the law of indigenous peoples and immigrants; and the law of territorial acquisition.² I show that in state and federal juridical discourse, police expresses unrestricted and undefined powers of governance rooted in a discourse of sovereign inheritance and state necessity, culminating in the increasingly pointed claim that as a...

  8. Constitutional Revision and the City: The Enforcement Acts and Urban America, 1870–1894
    (pp. 64-75)

    Congressional enactment of the Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871 marked an unprecedented federalization of voting rights. The various election laws aimed to make real the promise of the recently enacted Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the constitution. A complex duality characterized this new departure in the constitutional understanding of democratic suffrage. On one hand, Republican leadership looked to secure the rights of freedmen in the Reconstruction-era South. At the same time, from the outset, northern Republicans strategically worked to strengthen the party in all regions with a particular interest in urban America. From the immediate postwar years down to...

  9. “The Least Vaccinated of Any Civilized Country”: Personal Liberty and Public Health in the Progressive Era
    (pp. 76-93)

    Epidemic disease, like war, is the health of the state. Since the dawn of the American Republic, state and local governments have wielded powers both plenary and plentiful to defend the people against smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, and other pestilences. Individual liberty and property rights melted away before the state’s power—indeed its inherent legal duty—to protect the population from peril. Under the broad authority of the police power, state and local governments in the nineteenth century confined suspected disease-carriers against their will, established armed quarantines on land and at sea, seized private homes for smallpox pest houses, and...

  10. Forging Fiscal Reform: Constitutional Change, Public Policy, and the Creation of Administrative Capacity in Wisconsin, 1880–1920
    (pp. 94-112)

    At the turn of the twentieth century, Wisconsin, like many northern industrial states, faced a profound fiscal challenge. As one concerned citizen succinctly explained, “The two great administrative problems before our people at this time are, first, the control of corporate wealth, and, second, the establishment of a rational system of taxation.”¹ The largescale structural pressures created by the rise of corporate capitalism and the decline of an obsolete tax system forced all levels of government to re-examine the substance and administration of their fiscal policies. At the state and local level, many governments addressed the mismatch between the increasing...

  11. Woodrow Wilson and a World Governed by Evolving Law
    (pp. 113-125)

    It is a regrettable feature of the scholarly literature on Woodrow Wilson that so little of it relates to, or attempts to integrate, all the different phases or various aspects of his career—as an academic political scientist, as a figure in American domestic politics, and as a shaper of American foreign policy (and begetter of what has become known as “Wilsonianism”).¹ Of course, there have been many biographies, including some fine ones, but they have generally paid more attention to Wilson’s personal life and characteristics than to his thinking. There have also been some books on his work as...

  12. The South Confronts the Court: The Southern Manifesto of 1956
    (pp. 126-142)

    On Monday, March 12, 1956, Georgia’s senior senator, Walter George, rose in the Senate to read a manifesto blasting the Supreme Court. The Manifesto condemned the “unwarranted decision” of the Court in Brown as a “clear abuse of judicial power” in which the Court “with no legal basis for such action, undertook to exercise their naked judicial power and substituted their personal political and social ideas for the established law of the land.” The signers pledged themselves “to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the...

  13. State Constitutionalism and the Death Penalty
    (pp. 143-156)

    Concerned that the United States Supreme Court’s abolition of the death penalty inFurman v. Georgia(1972) would not be sustained, abolitionists turned to state supreme courts. Through their efforts, two states succeeded in realizing that goal: California, briefly, and Massachusetts, where the death penalty remains unconstitutional.¹

    For more than two centuries beforeFurman, the battles against capital punishment had raged in state legislatures. Seven states abolished the death penalty in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and in those states that retained the death penalty the average yearly execution rate spontaneously and steadily declined after peaking at 165 in...

  14. The Equal Rights Amendment Reconsidered: Politics, Policy, and Social Mobilization in a Democracy
    (pp. 157-176)

    In the early 1970s, fifty years after its first appearance in the U.S. Congress, the Equal Rights Amendment came the closest it ever would to ratification. The ERA declared: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” After sailing through Congress in 1972 with bipartisan support, the amendment went to the states for ratification. The response was positive and immediate: Hawaii approved the ERA the same day, twenty-one other states approved it before the end of the year, and eight more states the following...

  15. Governance and Democracy: Public Policy in Modern America
    (pp. 177-189)

    Each stage of our national development has had a distinctive form of public policy. And each has faced a core tension between the dictates of governance and the constraints of democracy. Economic or social interests, and advantage-seeking politicians, forge policies. Countervailing interests, or changing times, or the limits of state capacity see to it that those policies rarely if ever live up to the expectations of their progenitors. But then no one ever said that the American polity, to say nothing of its democratic ideal, is a neat or orderly thing.

    Theodore Lowi’s classic distributionist-regulatory-redistributionist trinity has been the most...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 190-192)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-193)