The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review

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In this groundbreaking interpretation of America's founding and of its entire system of judicial review, Larry Kramer reveals that the colonists fought for and created a very different system--and held a very different understanding of citizenship--than Americans believe to be the norm today. "Popular sovereignty" was not just some historical abstraction, and the notion of "the people" was more than a flip rhetorical device invoked on the campaign trail. Questions of constitutional meaning provoked vigorous public debate and the actions of government officials were greeted with celebratory feasts and bonfires, or riotous resistance. Americans treated the Constitution as part of the lived reality of their daily existence. Their self-sovereignty in law as much as politics was active not abstract.

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About the Author:


Larry Kramer is Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School. He served as a law clerk to Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., of the United States Supreme Court and taught at the law schools of the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, and New York University before moving to Stanford. He has written extensively in both academic and popular journals on topics involving the role of courts in society.

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"A serious, provocative meditation on what kind of legitimacy the Supreme Court ought to have in a constitutional democracy. Kramer forces us to take seriously the possibility that Supreme Court Justices are no better than we are at deciding matters of fundamental moral and political concernwe should thank Kramer for forcing us to take a hard look at the undeniable social costs of judicial review."--Law and Politics Book Review


"A major achievement...it will be ignored at the peril of anyone who seeks to understand constitutional history is future politics"--American Historical Review


"...masterful opening chapters...deserves great praise for his detailed historical research, which recaptures the flavor of early constitutionalism and its deep connection with an active and spirited American people. He also deserves great praise for untangling the different conceptions of "constitution" floating around and rendering that understanding easily accessible to a modern audience...a provocative and original analysis of American constitutionalism that will command a wide audience."--Perspectives on Politics


"Mr. Kramer is to be applauded for reminding us that courts do not enjoy a monopoly on the Constitution's true meaning and that senators and presidents alike should take the Constitution seriously in the confirmation process and at other times as well."--The Wall Street Journal


"Offers a fresh way of viewing the origins and limits of judicial review. The People Themselves challenges conventional constitutional jurisprudence and conventional constitutional history with a deeply researched historical pedigree for popular refusal to accept the Supreme Court's usurping title to the people's document."--The New York Review of Books


"Larry Kramer explains one of the great mysteries of modern America--why for 40 years, have the freest people in the world been powerless to stop courts of appointed lawyers from eroding their freedoms?.... a manual on how the American people can legitimately exercise their historic right to create what he calls popular constitutionalism."--Newt Gingrich, The New York Post


"Rarely since Edmund Burke's 'Speech on Conciliation with America' in 1774 has the legal dimension of the American Revolution been understood with such precision and presented with such conviction."--First Things


"Kramer has marshaled an impressive array of evidence and has made a thorough survey of modern scholarship to build his case for what he calls 'popular constitutionalism.'"--First Things


"An instructive tour through the early history of American constitutionalism."--National Review


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