Untrodden Ground: How Presidents Interpret The Constitution

Paperback | November 23, 2016

byHarold H. Bruff

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When Thomas Jefferson struck a deal for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, he knew he was adding a new national power to those specified in the Constitution, but he also believed his actions were in the nation’s best interest. His successors would follow his example, setting their own constitutional precedents. Tracing the evolution and expansion of the president’s formal power, Untrodden Ground reveals the president to be the nation’s most important law interpreter and examines how our commanders-in-chief have shaped the law through their responses to important issues of their time.
           
Reviewing the processes taken by all forty-four presidents to form new legal precedents and the constitutional conventions that have developed as a result, Harold H. Bruff shows that the president is both more and less powerful than many suppose. He explores how presidents have been guided by both their predecessors’ and their own interpretations of constitutional text, as well as how they implement policies in ways that statutes do not clearly authorize or forbid. But while executive power has expanded far beyond its original conception, Bruff argues that the modern presidency is appropriately limited by the national political process—their actions are legitimized by the assent of Congress and the American people or rejected through debilitating public outcry, judicial invalidation, reactive legislation, or impeachment. Synthesizing over two hundred years of presidential activity and conflict, this timely book casts new light on executive behavior and the American constitutional system.

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When Thomas Jefferson struck a deal for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, he knew he was adding a new national power to those specified in the Constitution, but he also believed his actions were in the nation’s best interest. His successors would follow his example, setting their own constitutional precedents. Tracing the evolution and e...

Harold H. Bruff is the Rosenbaum Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School. He is the author, most recently, of Bad Advice: Bush’s Lawyers in the War on Terror.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:550 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.6 inPublished:November 23, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022641826X

ISBN - 13:9780226418261

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Only a Necessity

Part I. Durable Consequences

Chapter 1. Responsibility: The Constitution
Chapter 2. Summoned by My Country: Washington and Adam
Chapter 3. The Fugitive Occurrence: Jefferson and Madison

Part II. A New Nation

Chapter 4. Independent of Both: Jackson, Tyler, and Polk
Chapter 5. A Rough Time of It: Lincoln
Chapter 6. Unmindful of the High Duties: Andrew Johnson

Part III. Steward of the People

Chapter 7. Facing the Lions: McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and Wilson
Chapter 8. What Must Be Done: Franklin Roosevelt

Part IV. One Single Man

Chapter 9. Going to Hell: Truman and Eisenhower
Chapter 10. Bear Any Burden: Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson
Chapter 11. Not Illegal: Nixon, Ford, and Carter

Part V. A New Era

Chapter 12. First a Dream: Reagan
Chapter 13. The Vision Thing: George H. W. Bush and Clinton

Part VI. Deciders

Chapter 14. No Equivocation: George W. Bush
Chapter 15. The Last Mile: Obama

Conclusion: The Stream of History

Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“This study offers a perceptive, deeply researched, and thoughtful analysis of how presidents interpret the Constitution. Bruff builds on his prior service with the Justice Department, decades of teaching at law school, and impressive scholarship over the years. The writing is crisp, clear, coherent, and develops each topic systematically.”