Constitutional History: Supremacy/Nullification
A history of federalism and states’ rights, of constitutional conflict in the United Colonies and then States, of actions and thoughts of primary actors in struggling to define and police this Constitutional Union, a history pertinent to the contemporary disintegration of nations and European striving to integrate. The course examines the U.S. constitutional plan, hammered out in military and political confrontations, judicial opinions, and Presidential proclamations. It traces the Anglo-American constitutional tradition with roots in pre-Socratic constitutional metaphors, the Magna Carta, and the failure of the New England Confederation. The course focuses mainly on the Foundation period, from the Stamp Act Crisis of 1765–66 through the American Revolution to the Federalist–Antifederalist debates over the nature of the Union and the necessity for a Bill of Rights in 1787–88. It concludes with the first decades of struggle to define the new union, South Carolina’s Nullification Crisis of 1830–33, and the constitutional principles of the War Between the States. The course presents U.S. constitutional history as a continuum of possible federal unions of sovereign states. A take-home essay requires students to map the historical big picture to current constitutional events.