The ink was barely dry on the Constitution when it was almost destroyed by the rise of political parties in the United States. As Bruce Ackerman shows, the Framers had not anticipated the two-party system, and when Republicans battled Federalists for the presidency in 1800, the rules laid down by the Constitution exacerbated the crisis. With ...
The ink was barely dry on the Constitution when it was almost destroyed by the rise of political parties in the United States. As Bruce Ackerman shows, the Framers had not anticipated the two-party system, and when Republicans battled Federalists for the presidency in 1800, the rules laid down by the Constitution exacerbated the crisis. With Republican militias preparing to march on Washington, the House of Representatives deadlocked between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Based on seven years of archival research, the book describes previously unknown aspects of the electoral college crisis. Ackerman shows how Thomas Jefferson counted his Federalist rivals out of the House runoff, and how the Federalists threatened to place John Marshall in the presidential chair. Nevertheless, the Constitution managed to survive through acts of statesmanship and luck. Despite the intentions of the Framers, the presidency had become a plebiscitarian office. Thomas Jefferson gained office as the People's choice and acted vigorously to fulfill his popular mandate. This transformation of the presidency serves as the basis for a new look at Marbury v. Madison, the case that first asserted the Supreme Court's power of judicial review. Ackerman shows that Marbury is best seen in combination with another case, Stuart v. Laird, as part of a retreat by the Court in the face of the plebiscitarian presidency. This "switch in time" proved crucial to the Court's survival, allowing it to integrate Federalist and Republican themes into the living Constitution of the early republic. Ackerman presents a revised understanding of the early days of two great institutions that continue to have a major impact on American history: the plebiscitarian presidency and a Supreme Court that struggles to put the presidency's claims of a popular mandate into constitutional perspective.
New in new jacket. "Ackerman describes the maneuvering that validated Thomas Jefferson's claim to the presidency that then created a decade-long confrontation between the Jeffersonians in the elected branches of the Federalists in the judiciary." [from review] Includes black and white illustrations, bibliographical references, and index.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-08-01 Focusing on the electoral crisis of 1801, Yale constitutional scholar Ackerman advances a bold new interpretation of early American history. The election is noted for the electoral tie between two Republicans, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Jefferson won, of course, but Ackerman's focus is less on the tie than on the sound Republican thrashing of Federalist John Adams. The fracas, he says, revealed a serious flaw in the framework for presidential elections: it couldn't easily accommodate party politics, which the framers had abhorred. The tempestuous jockeying of 1801, the author says, "marks the birth-agony of the plebiscitarian presidency"-that is, having soundly defeated the Federalists, a president claimed for the first time that the people had given him a mandate for broad change. In sketching the consequences of Jefferson's ascendance, Ackerman also rereads the history of the Supreme Court, suggesting that scholars have erred in abstracting the famed Marbury v. Madison decision from the larger political context, i.e., Federalist Chief Justice John Marshall used judicial review to try to limit Jefferson's mandate. Ackerman innovatively recasts the histories of parties, constitutional interpretation and presidential politics. This is not an easy read-indeed, it's quite dense at times, and the argument is complex-but the payoff is worth it. Rarely has a study of American history been more timely. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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