H. Jefferson Powell offers a powerful new approach to one of the central issues in American constitutional thinking today: the many ways in which constitutional arguments and outcomes are shaped both by historical circumstances and by political goals - including those of judges. Brilliantly combining history and theory, Powell analyzes a series of constitutional controversies from 1790 to 1944 to demonstrate that constitutional law from its very beginning has involved politically charged and ideologically divisive arguments. Powell then takes his conclusions one step further, claiming that it is precisely this historical tradition of argument that has given American constitutional law a remarkable coherence and integrity over time. No matter what the particular political disputes of the day might be, constitutional argument has provided a shared language through which our political community has been able to fight out its battles without ultimately fracturing.
H. Jefferson Powell is professor of law at Duke University. He is the author of several books, including The President's Authority over Foreign Affairs. He served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration.