Friday, February 15, 2008

GMU Law School Will Have First Year Course In Constitutional History

A required course that is, that will focus on
a large number of important original legal sources familiar to the founding generation, ranging from Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights to the Federalist (and Anti-Federalist) Papers, along with constitutional debates at the Philadelphia Convention and in the First Congress.
To be honest, my law school did a very poor job dealing with constitutional history and it is an important part of understanding both where our law originated and where it is going now.

Modern constitutional law classes focus largely on the development of the law since just before and then after the Warren Court. Sure cases like Marbury v. Madison, Dred Scot, Lochner and a few others from the pre-World War II era are covered, but not nearly in teh level of detail of the Warren Court and beyond. the constitutional history I learned in my undergrad days (I wrote a thesis about Anti-federalist/federalist thought) gave me more background than anything I studied in law school. In fact, when Justice Scalia spoke to my constitutional law class, he was shocked that the Federalist papers were not part of the curriculum (an omission my con law professor quickly rectified) and was similarly shocked that most of law students before him, save for about a dozen of us, had never read the Federalist papers, let alone any of the Anti-Federalist papers.

I wonder if any of Blackstone's Commentaries will be included in the GMU course as it was probably the one series of books that every lawyer in America read in the late 18th Century.

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