Cover image for Federalism, the Supreme Court, and the Seventeenth Amendment : the irony of constitutional democracy
Federalism, the Supreme Court, and the Seventeenth Amendment : the irony of constitutional democracy
Rossum, Ralph A., 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Lexington Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
xi, 307 pages ; 24 cm
The Supreme Court, judicial activism, and the protection of federalism -- Constitutional structure, federalism, and the securing of liberty -- How the framers protected federalism -- The Senate's protection of federalism in the First Congress -- Marshall's understanding of the original federal design -- Altering the original federal design : the adoption and ratification of the seventeenth amendment -- The Supreme Court's attempts to protect the original federal design.

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Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
KF4600 .R67 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Abraham Lincoln worried that the 'walls' of the constitution would ultimately be leveled by the 'silent artillery of time.' His fears materialized with the 1913 ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment, which, by eliminating federalism's structural protection, altered the very nature and meaning of federalism. Ralph A. Rossum's provocative new book considers the forces unleashed by an amendment to install the direct election of U.S. Senators. Far from expecting federalism to be protected by an activist court, the Framers, Rossum argues, expected the constitutional structure, particularly the election of the Senate by state legislatures, to sustain it. In Federalism, the Supreme Court, and the Seventeenth Amendment Rossum challenges the fundamental jurisprudential assumptions about federalism. He also provides a powerful indictment of the controversial federalist decisions recently handed down by an activist U.S. Supreme Court seeking to fill the gap created by the Seventeenth Amendment's ratification and protect the original federal design. Rossum's masterful handling of the development of federalism restores the true significance to an amendment previously consigned to the footnotes of history. It demonstrates how the original federal design has been amended out of existence; the interests of states as states abandoned and federalism left unprotected, both structurally and democratically. It highlights the ultimate irony of constitutional democracy: that an amendment intended to promote democracy, even at the expense of federalism, has been undermined by an activist court intent on protecting federalism, at the expense of democracy.

Author Notes

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).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The Seventeenth Amendment (ratified in 1913) removed from state legislatures the power to select US senators and vested that power in the voters of each state. It has received relatively little attention from scholars, but this provocative book by Rossum (Claremont McKenna College) argues that this amendment effectively killed the federal system created by the framers of the Constitution. He contends that the framers intended the powers of the states to be protected through structural characteristics of the constitutional system, especially the provisions for the selection of senators by state legislative bodies, and not by an activist Supreme Court that uses its power of judicial review to try to shield the states from congressional encroachments. Rossum is critical of recent Supreme Court decisions that attempt to make constitutionally based distinctions between national and state power. Instead Rossum believes the Court should recognize that the Seventeenth Amendment sacrificed federalist principles in the pursuit of democratic ideals. Questions related to federalism should be treated as political questions to be resolved by Congress. Highly recommended for undergraduate, graduate, and law libraries. T. H. Ferrell University of Louisiana at Lafayette