Maryland’s 1867 State Constitution, Among the Oldest in Use Today

By |2019-04-10T22:39:31-05:00April 10th, 2019|

Maryland has one of the oldest state constitutions in use today, as well as one of the longest Declarations of Rights. As such, it provides both the historian and constitutional scholar much to occupy their time. A detailed study of the rights of Maryland’s citizens will be time well spent. Maryland is the seventh [...]

The Ethical Center of American Constitutionalism

By |2019-03-25T07:17:52-05:00March 24th, 2019|

The direction that constitutional practice has taken in the past hundred years shows that the Framers’ conception of republican government has passed and the era of populist democracy has arrived. The underlying transformation of the unwritten constitution renders efforts to return to the Framers’ original intent problematic. Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series [...]

Franklin Pierce, Political Protest, & the Dilemmas of Democracy

By |2019-01-08T23:01:25-05:00January 8th, 2019|

Franklin Pierce’s suspicions reflected a tension within the antebellum Democratic Party in relation to slavery—how can we reconcile an advocacy of democratic decision-making with the existence of transcendent moral values, the Constitution with the Bible? On the stump in New Boston, New Hampshire in early January 1852, Franklin Pierce gave a long oration during [...]

The Libertarian Constitutional Fantasy

By |2018-12-03T23:16:10-05:00December 4th, 2018|

Debates regarding the role of the courts used to be waged primarily between conservatives, who were opposed to “judicial activism,” and liberals, who contended that the U.S. Constitution was a “living” document susceptible of a flexible interpretation. In recent years, however, libertarian scholars such as Georgetown Law professor Randy Barnett have altered the course of [...]

Harmony and Order: Giving Thanks

By |2018-11-23T23:30:14-05:00November 21st, 2018|

In a season of disharmony, discord, distrust, and disorder, it is often painful to stop, to pause, and to give oneself distance enough to consider what must be recognized as good, and true, and beautiful, even in what seems a cesspool of existence. To give thanks, though, is not only necessary, it is salubrious! In [...]

The Supreme Court: Usurping the Legislative and Taxing Power

By |2018-11-19T01:08:17-05:00November 18th, 2018|

“Precedence,” as well as following or overturning precedents, is not limited to what is decided in new cases. It is also concerns the adherence to established principles of judicial jurisprudence. Without both kinds of precedence, there is no limit to the power of the judiciary... In the last installment of this survey of the judicial principle [...]

The First Shots of the Civil War: The Star of the West

By |2018-11-14T23:30:37-05:00November 13th, 2018|

The Union soldiers defending Forts Sumter and Moultrie in Charleston Harbor had come to believe that their honor, as well as the honor of the Constitution and the federal government, was at stake... Star of the West Shortly after dawn, around 6 am, on January 9, 1861, Captain Abner Doubleday spotted a steamer [...]

The Other Founders: The Legacy of Anti-Federalism

By |2019-02-18T02:24:32-05:00November 1st, 2018|

To a very great extent, it was the Anti-Federalists, through their rhetoric and writings, who kept alive the spirit of localism and salvaged the great ideal of limited government inherited from the Revolution... The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism and the Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788-1828 by Saul Cornell (University of North Carolina Press, 1999) The Anti-Federalists who [...]

A Popular Defense of Our Undemocratic Constitution

By |2019-04-02T15:24:09-05:00October 28th, 2018|

If we consider the Founders’ arguments for the Constitution, we find not only that they intended it to be undemocratic, but that they would defend even its most undemocratic elements on “popular” grounds. What might appear to the partisans of democracy today as outdated roadblocks to efficient government are for the Founders politically salutary forms [...]

When America Was Really Polarized

By |2018-10-17T22:11:17-05:00October 17th, 2018|

When Americans claim that the 2016 election was the most contentious in history or that we’ve never been as divided as a people as we are now, I have to try very hard not to be smug. After all, unlike folks who actually have to show a profit each year, I as a college professor [...]

The Cornerstone of Conservatism

By |2018-08-19T21:27:21-05:00August 19th, 2018|

Conservatism is a formal understanding of man. By understanding, I mean a verifiable truth, and by formal, I refer to a distinguishable methodology which permeated the celebrated thoughts of classical antiquity and scholastic medievalism. Conversely, Liberalism is an ideology for man. This is not to say that Conservatism is without its own prescriptions, but [...]

How Would a Justice Kavanaugh Rule on Religious Liberty Cases?

By |2018-08-04T22:04:21-05:00August 4th, 2018|

Despite candidate Donald Trump’s explicit promise to appoint justices who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, as president he declared in his introduction of Brett Kavanaugh that, “like Ronald Reagan,” he did not ask potential nominees where they stood on controversial cases… If one overarching theme emerged from the decisions handed down in June in the most [...]

The Americanization of James Iredell

By |2018-08-04T00:04:04-05:00August 3rd, 2018|

James Iredell’s careful apologia for the American cause—a teaching which he developed in a series of essays and public letters written from 1773-1778—clearly contains a foreshadowing of what he thought should be in a constitution for the United States… James Iredell was born at Lewes, Sussex County, England. He was the eldest of the [...]

Constitutional Drift & the Challenge of Self-Governance

By |2018-07-29T23:08:08-05:00July 29th, 2018|

Self-governance requires that those in positions of authority emphasize the importance of treating the Constitution as a "living document," in that phrase’s best sense—not as a surrender to expediency, but as a recognition that no nation can govern itself that fails to meet the responsibility of perpetually renewing the Constitution by living its constitution... Today’s [...]