The historicist interpretation of American constitutionalism leads to a more modest vision of constitutional law than that of more theoretical accounts. It sees constitutional law as a servant of American political life rather than its master, and denies the sharp line between law and politics that other interpretations sometimes propose. It accords more constitutional significance to the actions of elected officials and sees less that is unique about judicial decisions. If judges accepted it, they would take a somewhat more modest approach to their role in the constitutional order than is customary, at least among justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. If other Americans took it seriously, the historicist account would demand of politicians and citizens alike that they recognize their responsibilities in maintaining a constitutional order that is open to and inclusive of all. In this context, the book examines a series of controversies with a constitutional dimension stretching from 1790, the year after federal government under the Constitution began, to 1944.
Keywords: American constitutionalism, constitutional law, judicial decisions, federal government, historicism, political life