Professor Chris Fritz Looks at Constitutional Issues in New Essays

February 27, 2012


Professor Chris Fritz addresses America’s constitutional tradition in two essays that were recently published in leading national forums.

Out From Under the Shadow of the Federal Constitution: An Overlooked American Constitutionalism,” was published in the Rutgers Law Journal, Vol. 41, P 851, 2010.

In the article, Fritz suggests the need to re-frame and broaden our understanding of the meaning of constitutionalism by including the experience and practices with written constitutions at the state level. Moving beyond the traditional and nearly overwhelming preoccupation with the federal Constitution arguably sheds new insight on the American experience with constitutions (state and federal) that rested on the sovereignty of the people – a challenge and riddle that invited contested views ever since the time of the Revolution.

The second article titled, “Interposition and the Heresy of Nullification: James Madison and the Exercise of Sovereign Constitutional Powers,” was published by the Heritage Foundation on its website as part of its First Principle Series on Political Thought.

The article examines James Madison’s views on the doctrine of nullification – stigmatized by its advocacy by southern states before the Civil War, but currently enjoying something of a revival in some political circles. The article sketches the distinction Madison drew between nullification (which he thought unconstitutional) and the valid tool of interposition that entailed a spirited vigilance of “the people,” which was consistent with Madison’s view of American constitutionalism. Today, interposition is often confused and wrongly associated with nullification, but before and after Madison’s day it was part of the way some Americans sought to oversee the workings of the national government.