Cover image for The Constitution in Congress : the Federalist period 1789-1801
The Constitution in Congress : the Federalist period 1789-1801
Currie, David P.
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Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Physical Description:
xv, 327 pages ; 25 cm
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KF4541 .C834 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In the most thorough examination to date, David P. Currie analyzes from a legal perspective the work of the first six congresses and of the executive branch during the Federalist era, with a view to its significance for constitutional interpretation. He concludes that the original understanding of the Constitution was forged not so much in the courts as in the legislative and executive branches, an argument of crucial importance for scholars in constitutional law, history, and government.

"A joy to read."-- Appellate Practive Journal and Update

"[A] patient and exemplary analysis of the work of the first six Congresses."--Geoffrey Marshall, Times Literary Supplement

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Choice Review

Although the Supreme Court has long been recognized as the nation's authoritative interpreter of the Constitution, it is easy to forget that the original understanding of the Constitution, and the conclusive interpretation of some of its major provisions, were forged in the Congress and executive branch, as the framers intended. From 1789 to 1801, when the Supreme Court decided only a few constitutional cases, the Congress debated and defined many of the document's great provisions. Not all issues were decided conclusively, of course. Some were resolved later by war, amendment, and Supreme Court interpretation, and many, such as the limits of the necessary and proper clause and the powers of Congress, recur in new forms in each generation. But the Congress began the process of filling in the skeletal blueprint of the Constitution. The 1st Congress, many of whose members had been delegates in Philadelphia, has been properly described as a "continuing constitutional convention." There can be no doubt, as Currie's impressive book reminds us, that Congress transformed the Constitution from theory and aspiration to a government of "concrete and functioning institutions." Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. J. B. Grossman; Johns Hopkins University

Table of Contents

Preface Abbreviations and Shortened Titles
Part 1 The First Congress, 1789-1791 Introduction to Part 1
1 The New Government
I Congress
A Rules
B Records
C Officers
D Oaths
E Instructions
F Qualifications
G Elections
H Enumeration
I Investigation
II The Special Role of the Senate
A The French Consular Convention
B The Fishbourn Affair
C The Southern Indians
D The Fort Harmar Treaties
III The Executive Branch
A The President's Role in Legislation
B Emoluments and Titles
C The Department of Foreign Affairs
D Other Officers
IV The Courts
A The Lower Federal Courts
B The Supreme Court
2 Substantive Legislation 1. Taxes and Trade
A Tariffs and Tonnage
B Whiskey
C Ship Licensing
D Inspection Laws
E Seamen
F The Slave Trade
II Spending
A Appropriations
B Lighthouses
C Other Spending Proposals
III The Public Credit
A Paper Money
B The Question of Full Payment
C The Assumption of State Debts
IV The Bank of the United States
V Military, Indian, and Foreign Affairs
A Soldiers
B Indians
C Pirates
VI Miscellany
A Naturalization
B Patents and Copyrights
C Crimes
D States
E Territories
F The Seat of Government
VII The Bill of Rights Conclusion to Part One
Part 2 The Federalists, 1791-1801 Introduction to Part Two
3 The Second Congress, 1791-1793
I Congress
II The President
A The Electoral College
B Succession
C Special Elections
III The Post Office
A Delegation
B Federalism and Other Problems
IV The Mint
V The Courts
VI The Militia
A Organization
B Employment
VII The Army
VIII The Treasury
IX Codfish
X Fugitives
XI Summary
4 The Third Congress, 1793-1795
I Neutrality
A The Proclamation
B The Aftermath
II Defense
A The Scope of Federal Authority
B The President and Congress
III St Domingo
IV Insurrection
V Citizenship
VI The Eleventh Amendment
VII The District of New Hampshire
VIII The Southwest Delegate
IX The Flag
5 The Fourth Congress, 1795-1797
I The Jay Treaty
A Negotiation and Approval
B The Role of the House
II Tennessee
III Congressional Powers
A Spending--Again
B Direct Taxes
C Perils of the Deep
D Kidnapping and the Right to Petition
IV Randall and Whitney
6 The Fifth and Sixth Congresses, 1797-1801
I Troubles with France
A Declaring the Peace
B The Provisional Army
C Volunteers
D The French Treaties
II The Enemy Within
A Aliens
B Sedition
C The Expulsion of Matthew Lyon
D The Cases of Duane and Randolph
E All's Well That Ends Well
III Odds and Ends
A The Impeachment of Senator Blount
B Mr
C The Mississippi Territory
D The District of Columbia
IV The Election of 1800
A The Grand Committee
B Mr
Appendix: The Constitution of the United States