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American Revolution, State Sovereignty, and the American Constitutional Settlement, 1765-1800
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The American Revolution, State Sovereignty, and the American Constitutional Settlement, 1765–1800 reveals the largely forgotten importance of state sovereignty to American constitutionalism. Contrary to modern popular perceptions and works by other academics, the Founding Fathers did not establish a constitutional system based upon a national popular sovereignty nor a powerful national government designed to fulfill a grand philosophical purpose. Instead, most Americans throughout the period maintained that a constitutional order based upon the sovereignty of states best protected and preserved liberty. Enshrining their preference for state sovereignty in Article II of the Articles of Confederation and in the Tenth and Eleventh Amendments to the federal constitution, Americans also claimed that state interposition—the idea that the states should intervene against any perceived threats to liberty posed by centralization—was an established and accepted element of state sovereignty.