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1808–1809: A Forgotten Crossroads in Constitutional History

1808–1809: A Forgotten Crossroads in Constitutional History

Chapter:
XI. 1808–1809: A Forgotten Crossroads in Constitutional History
Source:
A Community Built on Words
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226677224.003.0012

The twelve-month period beginning in May 1808 was one of the most important in the entire history of American constitutional law. Three men made decisions, in each case a personally difficult decision, that signaled a crucial and beneficial turning point in the administration of the system of fundamental law that the U.S. Constitution ordains. The legitimacy of subsequent constitutional decision making rests on the extent to which the decision makers follow the precedents set in that fateful year. The first of these men was William Johnson, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Johnson was a South Carolinian of working-class origins who managed to attend Princeton and then rise to prominence in his home state's politics at an early age. He became speaker of the state house when twenty-six, and a year later was elected to the state's constitutional court.

Keywords:   American constitutional law, U.S. Constitution, constitutional decision making, William Johnson, constitutional court

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