Cover image for Constitutional brinksmanship : amending the Constitution by national convention
Constitutional brinksmanship : amending the Constitution by national convention
Caplan, Russell L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1988.
Physical Description:
xxii, 240 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


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KF4555 .C35 1988 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this first systematic study of the legal problems relating to the convention clause, Russell Caplan shows that repeated constitutional crises have given rise to state drives for a national convention nearly every twenty years since the Constitution was enacted. He deftly examines thepolitics of constitutional brinksmanship between Congress and the states to reveal the ongoing tension between state and federal rights and constitutional tradition and reform.

Author Notes

Russell L. Caplan is at US Department of Justice.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Scholar-lawyer Caplan of the US Justice Department has written an invaluable informative volume on a troubling, increasingly important question--namely, what that part of Article V of the US Constitution precisely means in its provisions for proposal and ratification of constitutional amendments by conventions called for those purposes. Caplan gives character and proportion to the threatening "monster" by reviewing the surprisingly rich experience the US has had with constitutional conventions in the course of its history both before and since the "Great Convention" in Philadelphia. The incisive summary preface is followed in Part 1 by an effort to recover a "lost chapter of our constitutional history" through a review of the more than 230 state constitutional conventions. Caplan sets out the context and critical details of past constitutional reform efforts, going well beyond state history to include a running commentary on threatened and failed moves to achieve amendment of the national constitution by means of conventions. Part 2 is essentially a research brief that articulates precedents and arguments derived from the history in Part 1. Dense, sometimes almost opaque, but rich in illustrative reference and not unduly interrupted by partisan claims, this part of the volume confirms that the US indeed faces a "monster," one whose many-headed threats and dangers should warn against carelessly embarking on the "convention route" to constitutional reform. Notes, bibliography, and index are an excellent apparatus in this stimulating volume. Highly recommended for all levels. -L. Weinstein, Smith College

Table of Contents

Part I. History
1. Prelude to the Grand Conventionp. 3
2. Phladelphia and Afterp. 27
3. The Nineteenth Centuryp. 41
4. The Twentieth Centuryp. 61
Part II. Operating Principles
5. Judging Applicationsp. 93
6. Congress, the Courts, and the Presidentp. 115
7. The Convention's Proposing Agendap. 138
Conclusion: The Politics of Uncertaintyp. 159
Appendix Convention Applications of Virginia and New York, 1788-1789p. 165
Works Frequently Citedp. 169
Notesp. 173
Bibliographyp. 217
Indexp. 233