By John W. Compton

The New Deal is frequently stated to symbolize a sea swap in American constitutional historical past, overturning a century of precedent to allow an extended federal govt, elevated rules of the economic climate, and eroded estate protections. John Compton bargains a shocking revision of this customary narrative, exhibiting that nineteenth-century evangelical Protestants, now not New Deal reformers, cleared the path for an important constitutional advancements of the 20 th century.

Following the nice non secular revivals of the early 1800s, American evangelicals launched into a campaign to eliminate immorality from nationwide lifestyles through destroying the valuables that made it attainable. Their reason represented an immediate problem to founding-era criminal protections of sinful practices resembling slavery, lottery playing, and purchasing and promoting liquor. even supposing evangelicals advised the judiciary to bend the principles of constitutional adjudication on behalf of ethical reform, antebellum judges frequently resisted their overtures. yet after the Civil warfare, American jurists more and more acquiesced within the destruction of estate on ethical grounds.

within the early 20th century, Oliver Wendell Holmes and different critics of laissez-faire constitutionalism used the judiciary's popularity of evangelical ethical values to illustrate that conceptions of estate rights and federalism have been fluid, socially built, and topic to amendment through democratic majorities. the outcome was once a revolutionary constitutional regime--rooted in evangelical Protestantism--that may carry sway for the remainder of the 20th century.

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Bloch has observed, came to accept that the popular virtue necessary to sustain the republic would be cultivated in families and through private educational efforts, or not at all. 36 Religious Weakness and the Institutionalization of the Commercial Republic In light of these general trends, it should not be surprising that an essentially secular, property-centered constitutional order managed to gain a foothold in the early republic. To gain a better understanding of precisely how this process unfolded, however, it may be helpful to briefly examine two illustrative episodes from the early history of American constitutional development.

5 But while the idea of the “commercial republic” may have seemed the perfect theoretical solution to the problem of reconciling republicanism with size and diversity, a successful transition from theory to practice was by no means assured. ”6 Much would depend on the fit between the Constitution’s institutional innovations, on the one hand, and existing political cultures and practices, on the other. And it is here that the Federalist vision was—perhaps unavoidably—shortsighted, in the sense that it assumed a background of social conditions that were in hindsight merely transient features of American life.

104 Jacksonian-era lawmakers thus found themselves confronting a backlog of lottery grants—grants made by 40 The Evangelical Origins of the Living Constitution their predecessors—at the precise moment when public opinion was moving inexorably in the direction of prohibiting lotteries. State legislatures initially responded to this shift in public opinion by vowing never to authorize new lottery grants, but such declarations did nothing to address the problem of outstanding grants. 106 Yet the Marshall Court’s landmark rulings in Fletcher v.

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