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Federalism, the Supreme Court, and the Seventeenth Amendment: The Irony of Constitutional Democracy

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ISBN-13: 978-0739102855
ISBN-10: 0739102850
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Hardcover, December 30, 2001
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Editorial Reviews


Dr. Rossum abundantly documents in this readable book what many have intuitively felt, that the Seventeenth Amendment was a cosmic betrayal of the Constitution. It must be repealed if limited government is ever to be restored. (Charles E. Rice, Notre Dame Law School)

Ralph Rossum presents us with an arresting thesis. By providing a new perspective on the role of the courts in dealing with the recurring issues surrounding the Framers' vision of federalism, it is bound to engender debate of the highest order in the years to come. It will prove especially challenging for those of my persuasion who would like to check the growing centralization of power in Washington. (George W. Carey, Georgetown University)

Raplh Rossum...offers a series of provocative theses that relate directly to federalism. . . . Rossum writes gracefully and authoritatively. He draws on familiar principles, like the virtues of an extended commercial republic, checks and balances, and the operation of self-interests. (Publius: The Journal of Federalism)

Ralph Rossum's illuminating study of the Seventeenth Amendment will prompt many scholars of law and politics to rethink their understandings of the Supreme Court's role in protecting federalism. This is a timely and important book. (Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See)

About the Author

Ralph A. Rossum is Director of the Rose Institute of State and Local Government and Professor of American Constitutionalism at Claremont McKenna College. He is author of seven books, including American Constitutional Law, (with G. Alan Tarr).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Lexington Books (December 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739102850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739102855
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,229,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By R. Price on January 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Since 1992 the Supreme Court has engaged in a federalism revolution by using textual and non-textual constitutional arguments to limit federal power in favor of states. Rossum argues that this judicial attempt to police federalism boundaries is illegitimate because the 17th Amendment fundamentally altered the concept of federalism as originally designed. Rossum demonstrates that the founders understood that exact definition of federal power was impossible because of the changing necessities of time. Rather than entrust the Supreme Court to define federalism's boundaries, the founders created a constitutional structure that would police the exercise of federal power. This structure rested primarily upon the fact that the state legislatures elected senators. After explaining these original points, Rossum examines the actual practice of the Senate in the first congress and how it protected state prerogatives during consideration of the Bill of Rights, the Judiciary Act, and the Bank bill. After examining the pre-Civil War practices and understandings, Rossum turns to the 70+ year process of adopting the 17th Amendment. Finally, Rossum sums up the study with an examination of the federalism revolution and how it attempts to do the impossible: breathing life (federalism limits that are indefinable) into a corpse (constitutional federalism).

I think Rossum's book is wonderful for a few reasons. One is that it demonstrates again the historical naiveté of originalists who focus on 1787 without considering the impact that subsequent constitutional developments have upon that original structure. Another is that it helps illuminate the importance of constitutional changes that are often viewed as nothing more than minor corrections.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Devvy Jo Kidd on April 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent, well written, however a moot point. Not enough states ratified that amendment. I have iron clad, court solid proof. [...] It's a law that doesn't exist.
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