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Explicit & Authentic Acts Amending the U.S. Constitution: 1776-1995

Kyvig, David E.

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ISBN 10: 0700607927 / ISBN 13: 9780700607921
Published by University of Kansas Lawrence, KS nd (1996), 1996
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Explicit & Authentic Acts Amending the U.S. ...

Publisher: University of Kansas Lawrence, KS nd (1996)

Publication Date: 1996

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


In his farewell address, President Washington reminded his audience that the Constitution, "till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all." He regarded the Constitution as a binding document worthy of devout allegiance, but also believed that it contains a clear and appropriate procedure for its own reform. David Kyvig's illuminating study provides the most complete and insightful history of that amendment process and its fundamental importance for American political life.

Over the course of the past two centuries, more than 10,000 amendments have been proposed by the method stipulated in Article V of the Constitution. Amazingly, only 33 have garnered the required two-thirds approval from both houses of Congress, and only 27 were ultimately ratified into law by the states. Despite their small number, those amendments have revolutionized American government while simultaneously legitimizing and preserving its continued existence. Indeed, they have dramatically altered the relationship between state and federal authority, as well as between government and private citizens.

Kyvig reexamines the creation and operation of Article V, illuminating the process and substance of each major successful and failed effort to change the formal structure, duties, and limits of the federal government. He analyzes in detail the Founders' intentions; the periods of great amendment activity during the 1790s, 1860s, 1910s, and 1960s; and the considerable consequences of amendment failure involving slavery, alcohol prohibition, child labor, New Deal programs, school prayer, equal rights for women, abortion, balanced budgets, term limits, and flag desecration.

Ultimately, Kyvig demonstrates that so-called "constitutional revolutions" can only endure through formal amendment; without it such sea changes as the New Deal are likely to be temporary amidst the shifting winds of political fortune. That truth underscores the centrality of the amendment process to American constitutionalism, sheds light on the "amendment fever" that swept through the 104th Congress, and better prepares us to deal with such initiatives in the future.

From the Back Cover:

Winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Henry Adams Prize, and the Ohio Academy of History Prize

"Lucidly written and magisterial in scope, this book will be the standard work for many years to come. I strongly recommend it."--Melvin I. Urofsky, author of A March of Liberty: A Constitutional History of the United States

"A lively challenge to traditional views that anyone interested in the U.S. Constitution will want to read and reflect upon."--William Leuchtenburg, author of The Supreme Court Reborn

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