Symposium: International Law and the Constitution: Terms of Engagement - Foreword

10 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2015

Date Written: 2008


The Forward introduces a special volume, based on a symposium Fordham Law School’s Leitner Center for International Law and Justice hosted, International Law and the Constitution: Terms of Engagement. Domestic incorporation of international law goes back to the founding of the nation. Before the contemporary advent of the international law of human rights, many important figures in American history – such as Thomas Paine, Frederick Douglass, Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King – framed social justice issues in human rights terms. In fact, a strong bipartisan commitment to promoting human rights developed over the last several decades, because human rights reflect Americans’ deeply held values as well as United States national interests. Indeed, the United States was founded on the human rights idea – that is, the idea that, as the U.S. Declaration of Independence states, we all have certain basic, unalienable rights simply by virtue of our humanity. In the aftermath of the Holocaust and World War II, the United States again played a leadership role in promoting human rights. This proud tradition includes serving as the primary moving force behind the development of the United Nations and a range of other international institutions and regimes, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sixty years ago, inspired in part by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech and drafted in part by Eleanor Roosevelt. Just as the New Deal redefined domestic economic security for Americans, these post-war international regimes redefined the notion of “security” internationally to include human security. For Americans, a recognition that gross human rights violations were intertwined with the Nazi threat to international peace and security underscored the marriage between American values and interests. At the same time, Americans have been engaged in several fundamental debates concerning the relationship between international law and the U.S. Constitution and the implications of this relationship for human rights.

Suggested Citation

Powell, Catherine, Symposium: International Law and the Constitution: Terms of Engagement - Foreword (2008). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 77, p. 399, 2008; Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2687206. Available at SSRN:

Catherine Powell (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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