Constitutional Argument as Jeremiad

Timothy P. O'Neill

John Marshall Law School

February 10, 2011

Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2010

The "jeremiad" - a lamentation over how a community has fallen away from its religious values - is a particular form of sermon that can be traced back to preachers in 16th century Europe. The Puritans brought it to America in the 17th century. Intellectual historian Perry Miller has called the jeremiad America's first distinctive literary genre.

Sacvan Bercovitch's book "The American Jeremiad" contends that the jeremiad as a mode of rhetoric has always played an important role in American political discourse. This paper extends that analysis to the jeremiad's role in American constitutional argument. Examining recent work by Jack Balkin and Jedediah Purdy through the lens of the jeremiad helps bring into focus some key concepts in the area of constitutional interpretation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 15

Keywords: Jeremiad, Bercovitch, Purdy, Balkin, Perry Miller, Herman Melville, constitutional interpretation

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: February 12, 2011  

Suggested Citation

O'Neill, Timothy P., Constitutional Argument as Jeremiad (February 10, 2011). Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1759537

Contact Information

Timothy P. O'Neill (Contact Author)
John Marshall Law School ( email )
315 South Plymouth Court
Chicago, IL 60604
United States
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,004
Downloads: 107
Download Rank: 193,289