Necessities of State: Police, Sovereignty, and the Constitution

The Journal of Policy History, Vol. 20, No.1, 2008

UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2012-27

19 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2012  

Christopher Tomlins

University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program

Date Written: 2008

Abstract

Over the last fifteen years, legal historians have been exploring conceptualizations of the state and state capacity as phenomena of police. In this essay, I offer a genealogy of police in nineteenth-century American constitutional law. I examine relationships among several distinct strands of development: domestic regulatory law, notably the commerce power; the law of indigenous peoples and immigrants; and the law of territorial acquisition. I show that in state and federal juridical discourse, police expresses unrestricted and undefined powers of governance rooted in a discourse of sovereign inheritance and state necessity, culminating in the increasingly pointed claim that as a nation-state the United States possesses limitless capacity “to do all acts and things which independent states may of right do.”

Suggested Citation

Tomlins, Christopher, Necessities of State: Police, Sovereignty, and the Constitution (2008). The Journal of Policy History, Vol. 20, No.1, 2008; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2012-27. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2034578 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2034578

Christopher Lawrence Tomlins (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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