18 and Up: A Brief Overview of the History of the 26th Amendment

Voting rights advocates sought to ensure and expand this most fundamental right of citizens. By Dr. Jennifer FrostAssociate Professor of Women’s HistoryThe University of Auckland Exactly fifty years ago, in March 1971, federal lawmakers did the same, when they debated and overwhelmingly passed what would become the 26th Amendment.  This amendment extended the right to vote[…]

Declaration and Constitution: Travels of the Charters of Freedom

70 years have now passed since our nation’s founding documents came together and became known collectively as the Charters of Freedom. By Milton Gustafson Introduction Pennsylvania Avenue, the site of countless parades and marches, had never seen a procession quite like this one. On a December Saturday in 1952, uniformed members of all branches of[…]

A Founding Father in Dissent: How Elbridge Gerry Gave Us the Bill of Rights

Gerry the proposed original constitution threatened the liberties of the people and the rights of the states. During his second term as governor of Massachusetts, in 1811, Elbridge Gerry, upset with the Federalist Party’s outspoken opposition to President James Madison’s foreign policy, approved a controversial redistricting plan designed to give the Republican Party an advantage[…]

We the People: The Legacy of the Constitution of the United States of America

Our Founders left a document open to change with the ability to adapt to new times and circumstances. “Ours is a Constitution intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, 1819 Widespread Interest in the Founding Documents Since[…]

Constitutional Textualism and Debate over the 14th Amendment, 1860-1870

“Equality before the law” under the Fourteenth Amendment means exactly what it says it means. Former Associate Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia, the halcyon of judicial conservatism and the patron saint of the Supreme Court’s dominant bloc, justified his rightwing jurisprudence claiming to be a textualist. According to Scalia, “If you are a textualist, you don’t care[…]

The Areopagite Constitution and the Reforms of Ephialtes in Ancient Athens

Ephialtes’ reforms are considered by Aristotle and modern scholars to mark the end of the Areopagite constitution. The Areopagite constitution is the modern name for a period in ancient Athens described by Aristotle in his Constitution of the Athenians. According to that work, the Athenian political scene was dominated, between the ostracism of Themistocles in[…]

The Draconian Constitution: The First Written Legal Code in Ancient Athens

The people of Athens commissioned Draco to devise a written law code and constitution, giving him the title of the first legislator of Athens. Introduction The Draconian constitution, or Draco’s code, was a written law code created by Draco near the end of the 7th century BC in response to the unjust interpretation and modification[…]

A History of Federalism in the United States

Federalism was a political solution for the problems with the Articles of Confederation giving little authority to the federal government. Introduction Federalism in the United States is the constitutional division of power between U.S. state governments and the federal government of the United States. Since the founding of the country, and particularly with the end[…]

Federalism, the Founders, and the Constitution

As the Union grew during the two centuries after the founding, state constitutions increasingly included enumerations of rights. Introduction In the United States, the organizing principle of federalism distributes power between the national government and the state governments, both of whose powers rest on written constitutions and both of which can act directly on individuals.[…]

Publius: The Federalist Papers in Early America

Introduction The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles arguing for the ratification of the United States Constitution. They were first published serially from October 1787 to August 1788 in New York City newspapers. A compilation, called The Federalist, was published in 1788. The Federalist Papers serve as a primary source for interpretation of[…]

James Madison’s Role in Ratifying the Constitution and Adopting the Bill of Rights

Examining the most significant Madison holographs related to the drafting and ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Madison’s Family Tree According to the editors of his papers, James Madison prepared this family tree between 1813 and 1819. His father, James Madison, Sr. (1723-1801), and his mother, Nelly Conway Madison (1732-1829), were married[…]

The Pre-Revolutionary Period and the Roots of the American Political Tradition

It was not new ideas but old ones that led the colonists to revolt and form a new nation. Political Thought in the American Colonies American political ideas regarding liberty and self-government did not suddenly emerge full-blown at the moment the colonists declared their independence from Britain. The varied strands of what became the American[…]

Article II, Section 4: A Brief History of Impeachment

The sparse history has given Congress relatively few opportunities to flesh out the bare bones of the constitutional text. The final section of Article II, which generally describes the executive branch, specifies that the “President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States” shall be removed from office if convicted in an impeachment[…]

The Founders’ Furious Impeachment Debate – and Benjamin Franklin’s Modest Proposal

Bitter political partisanship marked eleven previous presidential impeachment inquiries and the 1787 debate in Philadelphia. By Harlow Giles Unger The current clash in Congress over whether to impeach the President has extended to more than two centuries the bitter political partisanship that marked eleven previous presidential impeachment inquiries and the 1787 debate in Philadelphia over how to impeach the[…]

Almost 12: The Bill of Rights – James Madison’s Two Failed Amendments

James Madison proposed 12 amendments to the Constitution, but only 10 were approved. When the Constitutional Convention sent the proposed Constitution to the states for ratification, Anti-Federalists voiced strong objections to it, especially criticizing the strength it invested in the national government and its lack of explicit protections for the rights of individuals. Politicians in[…]

The Three-Fifths Compromise and the Origins of the Electoral College

The 1787 debate over how slaves would be counted when determining a state’s total population for legislative representation and taxes. Introduction The Three-Fifths Compromise was a compromise reached among state delegates during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention. Whether, and if so, how, slaves would be counted when determining a state’s total population for legislative representation and taxing purposes was important,[…]