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A Community Built on WordsThe Constitution in History and Politics$
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H. Jefferson Powell

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226677231

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226677224.001.0001

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1808–1809: A Forgotten Crossroads in Constitutional History

1808–1809: A Forgotten Crossroads in Constitutional History

XI. 1808–1809: A Forgotten Crossroads in Constitutional History
A Community Built on Words
University of Chicago Press

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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