The Institute for Constitutional History is pleased to announce another
Robert H. Smith seminar for advanced graduate students and junior faculty!
*Modern Constitutional War Powers*
The six-week seminar concerns the evolution of the distribution of war
powers from the beginning of the Twentieth Century to the present day. The
Founders endeavored to create a federal system in which a separation and
blending of powers would make the legislature the preeminent source of
military authority and thus prevent the executive from unilaterally
entangling the nation in costly belligerent adventures. Conventional
wisdom has it that practical developments over the past 100 years—most
significantly, the creation of a powerful standing army and intelligence
establishment, the development of nuclear weapons, and the emergence of a
much more robust role for the United States as a superpower responsible for
the defense of Europe and other allies in a post-nuclear age—have rendered
the original constitutional design obsolete, such that Congress and the
courts have largely ceded war-making authority to an all-powerful,
virtually unchecked President. In this interdisciplinary course, using
conventional legal materials as well as recent historical and political
science accounts of the distribution of war powers, we will examine whether
and to what extent this conventional account is accurate, and will more
broadly discuss whether the current balance of powers ensures sufficient
checks on misguided adventurism and abuse of individual liberties.
Martin S. Lederman is Associate Professor of Law at the Georgetown
University Law Center. He was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the
Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2009 to 2010, and an
Attorney Advisor in OLC from 1994–2002. In 2008, with David Barron, he
published a two-part article in the Harvard Law Review examining
Congress’s authority to regulate the Commander in Chief’s conduct of war.
He has been a regular contributor to several blogs and web sites, including
Balkinization, SCOTUSblog, Opinio Juris, and Slate, writing principally on
issues relating to separation of powers, war powers, torture, executive
branch lawyering, and the First Amendment.
Edward A. Purcell Jr. is the Joseph Solomon Distinguished Professor at
New York Law School and one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the
history of the United States Supreme Court and the federal judicial
system. He is the author of several books, including Originalism,
Federalism, and the American Constitutional Enterprise: A Historical Inquiry (Yale University Press, 2007), and Brandeis and the Progressive
Constitution: Erie, the Judicial Power, and the Politics of the Federal
Courts in Twentieth-Century America (Yale University Press, 2000).
Wednesday afternoons, 3:00–5:00 p.m., October 16, 23, 30, November 6, 13,
20. The seminar will meet at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central
Park West, New York City.
The seminar is designed for graduate students and junior faculty in
history, political science, law, and related disciplines. All participants
will be expected to complete the assigned readings and participate in
seminar discussions. Although the Institute cannot offer academic credit
directly for the seminar, students may be able to earn graduate credit
through their home departments by completing an independent research
project in conjunction with the seminar. Please consult with your advisor
and/or director of graduate studies about these possibilities. Space is
limited, so applicants should send a copy of their c.v. and a short
statement on how this seminar will be useful to them in their research,
teaching, or professional development. Materials will be accepted only by
email at MMarcus@nyhistory.org until *May 15, 2013*. Successful applicants
will be notified soon thereafter. For further information, please contact
Maeva Marcus at (202) 994-6562 or send an email to MMarcus@nyhistory.org.
There is no tuition or other charge for this seminar, though participants
will be expected to acquire the assigned books on their own.
The Institute for Constitutional History (ICH) is the nation’s premier
institute dedicated to ensuring that future generations of Americans
understand the substance and historical development of the U.S.
Constitution. Located at the New York Historical Society and the George
Washington University Law School, the Institute is co-sponsored by the
American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians,
and the American Political Science Association. The Association of American
Law Schools is a cooperating entity. ICH prepares junior scholars and
college instructors to convey to their readers and students the important
role the Constitution has played in shaping American society. ICH also
provides a national forum for the preparation and dissemination of
humanistic, interdisciplinary scholarship on American constitutional
The Graduate Institute for Constitutional History is supported, in part, by
the Saunders Endowment for Constitutional History and a
“We the People” challenge grant from the National Endowment for the