The Court and the Constitution Author:Archibald Cox Two centuries ago the Framers of the Constitution of the United States of America outlined a unique structure of government. Their majestic phrases fix limits and evoke historic ideals, but their genius also lay in leaving for the future questions upon which they could not agree and other questions that they could not possibly foresee. In time, ... more »it thus fell to the Supreme Court of the United States to decide the unanswered questions as they arose. The Justices were required, on the one hand, to preserve their authority by building a body of law linking each new decision to the sacred document and, on the other, to meet the new realities and changing needs and aspirations of later times. Continuity was preserved, but the continuity was creative.
Archibald Cox, former Solicitor General of the United States and the first Watergate Special Prosecutor, describes how the Court has kept the Constitution a vital, creative instrument. From the first test of Presidential powers; through the pre-Civil War years of building a nation and the period of industrialization and urbanization that carried the country from laissez-faire to the welfare state; to the use of constitutional adjudication as an instrument of libertarian and egalitarian reform and the current controversy over the role of the Court in American government; Cox chronicles the issues and debates of each era. As he does, he relates not only the law and history, but the dramatic stories of Eugene Debs, the Gobitis children, and the Dolly Mapps and Jane Roes whose individual lives produced great cases, and of the lawyers and Justices who shaped the decisions that in turn shaped our history. In doing so he has provided us with a masterly history to mark the Constitution's bicentennial.« less