The Constitution and the New Deal by G. Edward White

By G. Edward White

In a robust new narrative, G. Edward White demanding situations the reigning knowing of twentieth-century very best court docket judgements, really within the New Deal interval. He does this by way of rejecting such deceptive characterizations as "liberal," "conservative," and "reactionary," and by means of reexamining a number of key issues in constitutional legislation. via an in depth studying of assets and research of the minds and sensibilities of a big selection of justices, together with Holmes, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Van Devanter, and McReynolds, White rediscovers the area of early-twentieth-century constitutional legislation and jurisprudence. He presents a counter-story to that of the triumphalist New buyers. The deep conflicts over constitutional principles that happened within the first half the 20th century are sensitively recovered, and the morality play of excellent liberals vs. mossbacks is changed. this is often the single completely researched and completely learned heritage of the constitutional concept and perform of the entire best courtroom justices through the turbulent interval that made the United States glossy. (20010701)

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In the same time period Barry Cushman and Richard Friedman began their reexaminations of constitutional jurisprudence between the two World 22 22 Complicating the Conventional Account Wars, attempting to view constitutional decisions as exercises in extending or modifying currently authoritative doctrinal propositions rather than through the established political categories of the conventional account. By adopting this approach Cushman, whose earlier articles culminated in Rethinking the New Deal Court (1998), and Friedman, whose initial assessment of constitutional developments in the 1930s appeared in a 1994 article, “Switching Time and Other Thought Experiments: The Hughes Court and Constitutional Transformation,”20 found that causal connections between the introduction of the Court-packing plan and a dramatic shift in the Court’s constitutional jurisprudence were attenuated, and that constitutional change over the first three decades of the twentieth century had been imperfectly described by the conventional account.

I have tried to adopt both those guidelines in the analysis of several topics in early twentieth-century constitutional history that follows. My analysis will require that the reader indulge in some relatively technical discussions of constitutional issues that may no longer seem urgent or contested. I hope, however, that such analysis will enable me to demonstrate that the conventional narrative of early twentieth-century constitutional history cannot claim to furnish an accurate description of the relationship between the New Deal and constitutional change nor to rest on an accurate understanding of the relationship of Supreme Court constitutional decisions to their historical context.

Rodell’s book may not have been regarded as a serious scholarly effort—he identified his fourteen-year-old son as his research assistant—but its underlying messages about the human and political dimensions of judging had become entrenched. By the appearance of William Leuchtenburg’s Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963), early twentieth-century developments in constitutional jurisprudence had come to be seen as episodes in political history. The Court-packing tale figured prominently in Leuchtenburg’s narrative, signifying his tendency to subsume legal events to political themes.

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