Charters, Compacts and Tea Parties: The Decline and Resurrection of a Delegation View of the Constitution
42 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2010 Last revised: 8 Jun 2010
Date Written: April 2, 2010
This article seeks to address a gap in constitutional law scholarship: the absence of a systematic examination of the manner in which the contractual nature of the Constitution illuminates the original understanding of the text. By closely examining the historical evidence, I argue that the interpretation of the Constitution has been influenced by dueling conceptions of contractual origin. One view treats the Constitution as a charter that delegates limited and defined authority to the federal government. The second view treats the Constitution as a compact the terms of which reflect a bargain between the federal government and a discrete body public. After discussing the important differences between these two views of the Constitution, the article discusses the manner in which the compact view came to eclipse the delegation view over the course of our nation’s history. However, the article concludes by underscoring the connection between the Tea Party Movement and the values promoted under the delegation view, and suggests that the contemporary public understanding of the Constitution may reflect the re-ascendancy of the delegation view.
Keywords: constitutional law, constitution, contractual, tea party, delegation, immigration law
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