Constituting Empire: New York and the Transformation of Constitutionalism in the Atlantic World, 1664-1830

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Univ of North Carolina Press, May 18, 2006 - Law - 496 pages
According to the traditional understanding of American constitutional law, the Revolution produced a new conception of the constitution as a set of restrictions on the power of the state rather than a mere description of governmental roles. Daniel J. Hulsebosch complicates this viewpoint by arguing that American ideas of constitutions were based on British ones and that, in New York, those ideas evolved over the long eighteenth century as New York moved from the periphery of the British Atlantic empire to the center of a new continental empire.

Hulsebosch explains how colonists and administrators reconfigured British legal sources to suit their needs in an expanding empire. In this story, familiar characters such as Alexander Hamilton and James Kent appear in a new light as among the nation's most important framers, and forgotten loyalists such as Superintendent of Indian Affairs Sir William Johnson and lawyer William Smith Jr. are rightly returned to places of prominence.

In his paradigm-shifting analysis, Hulsebosch captures the essential paradox at the heart of American constitutional history: the Revolution, which brought political independence and substituted the people for the British crown as the source of legitimate authority, also led to the establishment of a newly powerful constitution and a new postcolonial genre of constitutional law that would have been the envy of the British imperial agents who had struggled to govern the colonies before the Revolution.



 

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Contents

The Imperial Origins of New York
15
Imperia in Imperio Property and Sovereignty in a Frontier Province
71
Imperial Civil War and Reconstitution
145
Postcolonial Constitutionalism and Transatlantic Legal Culture
203
Conclusion
303
Notes
307
Bibliography
403
Acknowledgments
467
Index
469
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Page 30 - And it appears in our books, that in many cases, the common law will control acts of parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void ; for when an act of parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will control it, and adjudge such act to be void ; and therefore in 8 E 330 ab Thomas Tregor's case on the statutes of W.
Page 39 - But if the Parliament will positively enact a thing to be done which is unreasonable, I know of no power in the ordinary forms of the constitution that is vested with authority to control it...

About the author (2006)

Daniel J. Hulsebosch is professor of law and history at New York University School of Law.

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