Providential Products: Reconciling the American and European Constitutional Experiences

Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review (2013 Forthcoming)

33 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2012 Last revised: 8 Nov 2012

See all articles by Seth Meyer

Seth Meyer

University of Virginia - School of Law, Alumnus or Degree Candidate Author

Date Written: February 23, 2012


Citizens on both sides of the Atlantic readily compare the European Union experience to date with the United States’ transition from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution. While many recognize the apparent parallels of merging a “loose confederation” of states and the seeming desirability of a stronger federal union, scholars have not fully uncovered why efforts in Rome failed while those in Philadelphia succeeded. Speaking to American and Continental audiences, this note will seek to assess why the European Union has failed to develop a strong federal constitution by comparing the inherent deviating dynamics that characterize the EU and American experiences John Jay alluded to in The Federalist. Looking to discrete criteria, I hope to reframe the debate through an objective lens.

Preliminarily, this note will lie out the early origins of the American colonies and republic vis-a-vis the European Union’s succession of treaties that comprise its adolescent years to provide a basic necessary context. In juxtaposition, I will demonstrate how the “raw materials,” in terms of people, place and history, with which the constitutional framers in America were afforded, were deeply different and more conducive to a single constitutional convention and relatively quick ratification. First among these variables, I consider the unifying concept or vision and theoretical frameworks for integration, both of which demonstrate comparative clarity in the new world versus heated obscurity in the old world. Next, I look to political, religious, and cultural distinctions between political subdivisions and demonstrate how the American experience benefitted from greater cohesion. Finally, I analyze the economic condition and disparities throughout the territories, expressing how a more egalitarian society advantaged early America. Aggregating these factors indicates that while both constitutional ventures experienced some measure of resistance, the American experience reflects far more favorable winds than its European corollary. While many suggest Europe is waiting for its own James Madison to come along, I suggest it might as well be waiting for Godot (or worse). While all politicians are wise to consider the historical contributions of predecessors, European integration presents diametrically different difficulties that necessitate a distinct process with unique solutions.

Keywords: European Union, Articles of Confederation

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Meyer, Seth, Providential Products: Reconciling the American and European Constitutional Experiences (February 23, 2012). Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review (2013 Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: or

Seth Meyer (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - School of Law, Alumnus or Degree Candidate Author ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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