Vanderbilt Law Review


Robert B. McKay

First Page



Constitutional law, like other law, is rooted in the conservative tradition of the legal system as a whole and thus more willingly pays court to the muse of history and the force of precedent than to the muse of sociology and the demand for revision. It is therefore not surprising that lawyers read constitutions as law, in the ordinary meaning of that word, and that judges apply constitutional provisions as they do other law...

The Constitution of the United States was not cast in legal mold by accident, but by design that was itself the product of ineluctable history. A written Constitution seemed necessary not only to assure adequate authority in the central government, but more importantly to give permanent protection against the potential abuses of government with which there was familiarity enough. The distrust of British forms of government, whether in terms of absolute monarchy or of parliamentary supremacy, had provoked the Declaration of Independence and its ringing denunciation of the "repeated injuries and usurpations" of the "present King of Great Britain." Even after military victory was assured, continuing mistrust of centralized authority had dictated the weak alliance of nation and states provided for in the Articles of Confederation, which proved to be more a charter of "thou shalt nots" than a formula for effective government.