1st Edition

States in American Constitutionalism Interpretation, Authority, and Politics

By Bradley D. Hays Copyright 2019
    126 Pages
    by Routledge

    126 Pages
    by Routledge

    States in American Constitutionalism: Interpretation, Authority, and Politics examines the often overlooked role that states have played in the development and maintenance of American constitutionalism by examining the purpose and effect of state resolutions on national constitutional meaning. From colonial practices through contemporary politics, subnational governments have made claims about what national constitutional provisions and principles ought to mean, fashioned political coalitions to back them, and asserted their authority to provoke constitutional settlement. Yet, this practice has been far from static. Political actors have altered the practice in response to their interpretive objectives and the political landscape of the day. States in American Constitutionalism explains both the development of the practice and the way each innovation to the practice affected subsequent iterations.

    Hays presents a series of case studies that explore the origins of the practice in colonial constitutionalism, its function in the early Republic, subsequent developments in antebellum and twentieth century politics, and contemporary practice in the first two decades of the twenty-first century.

    States in American Constitutionalism will be of great interest to students and academics interested in constitutional law and politics, political and constitutional development, and federalism.

    1. Introduction: The (Nonlegal) Role of States in Constitutional Maintenance 

    2. Alerting the People: The Origins and Early Practice of State Maintenance 

    3. Interposing the Protective Shield and Exerting State Authority: The Failures of State Maintenance 

    4. The Authority to Reject Interpretation: State Maintenance in the Twentieth Century 

    5. Reinvigoration: The Return of Madisonian Maintenance, Nullification, and the Affirmation of Judicial Authority 

    6. Conclusion: On Development and Constitutionalism 


    Bradley D. Hays is an associate professor of political science at Union College. He received his Ph.D. in government and politics from the University of Maryland, has held faculty positions at the Catholic University of America and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and been a junior fellow at the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College. He writes on constitutional politics and political development. He is also "scholar in residence" at WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

    "Much has been written in recent years about ‘horizontal departmentalism,’ the degree to which interpretive authority is shared at the national level among Congress, presidents, and the judiciary. Comparatively less has been written about the history of ‘vertical departmentalism,’ concerning the role that states can play in the enterprise of constitutional interpretation. Bradley Hays’ book should be of immense interest to any lawyer, political scientist, or historian interested in the role this important topic, which, as he demonstrates in his concluding chapters, has some considerable contemporary relevance." Sanford Levinson, author of Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance

    "Professor Bradley Hays has written a signature work highlighting the importance of state actors as participants in struggles over national constitutionalism rather than as providing constitutional alternatives. His history provides readers with the remarkable variety of ways in which states have sometimes diverted, sometimes reformed, but always played a crucial role structuring the path of national constitutional law in the United States." Mark Graber, University System of Maryland Regents Professor

    "It was an article of faith of many Founders and political theorists that imperium in imperio was a blatant political solecism. But Hays’ succinct study of the ways in which a contentious set of professedly sovereign voices have jockeyed to challenge and settle national constitutional meaning moves beyond the best known—and, purportedly, discrediting—episodes to argue that there has been a tradition of sub-national interpretive pluralism over the length of American history that has helped to define the U.S. constitutional project. Hays’ account deepens our understanding of the dynamics of American federalism, and of the country’s political and constitutional development." Ken I. Kersch, Professor of Political Science, Boston College