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Constitutional Dictatorship: Crisis Government in the Modern Democracies Paperback – September 1, 2002
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About the Author
Clinton Rossiter (1917-1970) Cornell, A.B. 1939, Princeton, Ph.D., 1942, held Cornell's John L. Senior Chair in Government and was the author of numerous books, including The Supreme Court and the Commander-in-Chief (1951); Conservatism in America (1955); The American Presidency (1956); Marxism: The View from America (1960); and The American Quest 1790-1860 (1971).
William J. Quirk is professor of law at the School of Law of the University of South Carolina. His earlier work on this subject appeared in Society.
Top Customer Reviews
However, in other ways, Constitutional Dictatorship whose first edition put its cogent arguments to rest in 1948 reappears today as an intellectual Rip Van Winkle; the world it awakes in today would scarcely be recognizable to the author.Read more ›
In this book, Rossiter tries to solve an age old question: how do republics, rooted in the idea of limited, representative government, react to crises of the moment when a response is demanded sooner than free debate can produce one? Rossiter's answer is that we have always turned to one form or another of executive power which operates outside of the normal restrictions of law. It is important to note that within Rossiter's mind, these steps outside the law are not a violation of it, but rather an essential guardian thereof. To him, it was important that we accept unanticipated crises will occur, and that any government that seeks to retain its republican form in the long-term must provide constitutional legitimacy to emergency uses of power so that they become a normal, regulated part of government.
To support his view, he provides five historical examples (one ancient, four modern): ancient Rome, Weimar Germany, France, Great Britain, and the Civil War. He paints with broad brushstrokes the historical background of each state he covers, but is not so short as to be curt.Read more ›
For example, he attempts to make a case basically for un-written rules or laws or practices that are justified to be used by leaders in times of crises. He tries to show how the Romans, when they were threatened, would select a person they thought capable of meeting the crises and giving him dictatorial powers to meet the crises.
The problem is that this "Proconsul" (or dictator) did NOT assume these powers himself. These powers were given him by the Roman Senate. No such thing happened with Lincoln. As a matter of fact, he did not call congress into session for the several months it took him to overthrow the Federal Republic and establish a Dictatorship. He had telegraphed how he would deal with any resistance to what he had done by having many newspapers that defended the south destroyed and having their editors arrested (again, unconstitutionally according to the Chief Justice of These United States at the time Roger B Taney - but Lincoln threatened to imprison the chief justice and posted a guard outside his home to make sure he did not hold any type of court) and thrown into prison. He also arrested and imprisoned ANYONE who spoke out against his actions.Read more ›