The Constitution of the Second Generation

In his new book, Akhil Amar describes the “unwritten Constitution” as a set of values, customs, and beliefs that are crafted and revealed over time, and which inform the interpretation and application of the Constitution. Amar’s account centers on four key moments in United States history: the founding, Reconstruction, the New Deal, and the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, leaving relatively unexplored an essential period of existential, adolescent crisis: the early nineteenth century. Using a 1830 exchange between James Madison and Martin Van Buren as a case study, this Article discusses the significance of the period between 1815 and 1850 as an era of constitutional change.

The full text of this Article is available to download as a PDF.