The Supreme Court Reborn

The Constitutional Revolution in the Age of Roosevelt

by

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 019802715X
  • 9780195111316
  • 9780198027157
  • 9780199839384
For almost sixty years, the results of the New Deal have been an accepted part of political life. Social Security, to take one example, is now seen as every American's birthright. But to validate this revolutionary legislation, Franklin Roosevelt had to fight a ferocious battle against the opposition of the Supreme Court--which was entrenched in laissez faire orthodoxy. After many lost battles, Roosevelt won his war with the Court, launching a Constitutional revolution that went far beyond anything he envisioned.In The Supreme Court Reborn, esteemed scholar William E. Leuchtenburg explores the critical episodes of the legal revolution that created the Court we know today. Leuchtenburg deftly portrays the events leading up to Roosevelt's showdown with the Supreme Court. Committed to laissez faire doctrine, the conservative "Four Horsemen"--Justices Butler, Van Devanter, Sutherland, and McReynolds, aided by the swing vote of Justice Owen Roberts--struck down one regulatory law after another, outraging Roosevelt and much of the Depression-stricken nation. Leuchtenburg demonstrates that Roosevelt thought he had the backing of the country as he prepared a scheme to undermine the Four Hoursemen. Famous (or infamous) as the "Court-packing plan," this proposal would have allowed the president to add one new justice for every sitting justice over the age of seventy. The plan picked up considerable momentum in Congress; it was only after a change in the voting of Justice Roberts (called "the switch in time that saved nine") and the death of Senate Majority Leader Joseph T. Robinson that it shuddered to a halt. Rosevelt's persistence led to one of his biggest legislative defeats. Despite the failure of the Court-packing plan, however, the president won his battle with the Supreme Court; one by one, the Four Horsemen left the bench, to be replaced by Roosevelt appointees. Leuchtenburg explores the far-reaching nature of FDR's victory. As a consequence of the Constitutional Revolution that began in 1937, not only was the New Deal upheld (as precedent after precedent was overturned), but also the Court began a dramatic expansion of Civil liberties that would culminate in the Warren Court. Among the surprises was Senator Hugo Black, who faced widespread opposition for his lack of qualifications when he was appointed as associate justice; shortly afterward, a reporter revealed that he had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Despite that background, Black became an articulate spokesman for individual liberty.William E. Leuchtenburg is one of America's premier historians, a scholar who combines depth of learning with a graceful style. This superbly crafted book sheds new light on the great Constitutional crisis of our century, illuminating the legal and political battles that created today's Supreme Court.
  • Oxford University Press; October 1996
  • ISBN 9780198027157
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
  • Title: The Supreme Court Reborn
  • Author: William E. Leuchtenburg
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press
Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 019802715X
  • 9780195111316
  • 9780198027157
  • 9780199839384

In The Press

"Excellent....Leuchtenburg writes like a novelist."--CHOICE
"Highly recommended for individuals and scholars who wish to understand the separation of powers in the American national government during a time of national turmoil."--Library Journal
"An engaging and able guide."--Newsday
"There is no match for the FDR era, and essayist Leuchtenburg's collection is matchless as well."--Booklist
"Perceptive and valuable....This work is a 'good read'....Its detail...further illuminates the people's role in their own constitutional destiny, a de=imension of the crises of the 1930s that has few comparable parallels in earlier constitutional development."--The Journal of American History
"Leuchtenburg skillfully traces the development of the president's plan, the broadly-based hostile opposition which suddenly erupted and eventually led to its defeat, and the far-reaching consequences."--Presidential Studies Quarterly
"For any reader who is looking to see what happened to the Constitution in 1937, Leuchtenburg here supplies the critical data."--The New Republic
"These nine essays...combine careful documentation and total readability....Any lawyer who dismisses the constitutional history of the 1930s as old hat has a pleasant surprise in store once he or she begins any one of Professor Leuchtenburg's essays....Writing of refreshing clarity and precision."--New York Law Journal
"An account that is always lucid and at times even gripping."--The New York Times
"This collection of essays is highly recommended for individuals and scholars who wish to understand the separation of powers in the American national government during a time of national turmoil."--Library Journal
"In terms of movement and upheaval in the Court itself, there is no match for the FDR era, and essayist Leuchtenburg's collection is matchless as well."--Booklist
"The strength of The Supreme Court Reborn lies in Leuchtenburg's able combination of social, political, and constitutional history....For those who want to begin to understand how the constitution was transformed in the course of the century, Leuchtenburg is an engaging and able guide."--Newsday

About The Author

William E. Leuchtenburg is William Rand Kenan Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Visiting Professor of Legal History at Duke Law School. Winner of both the Bancroft and Parkman prizes, he is the author of many books, including The Perils of Prosperity and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 019802715X
  • 9780195111316
  • 9780198027157
  • 9780199839384