In an age when judges are habituated to invent rather than apply the law, a written Constitution is a thing of irony. We’ve become exactly what constitutions are designed to prevent: a nation not of laws but of men—er, sorry, of people. And not of just any people: We’ve become a nation of lawyers, a juristocracy in which courts first impose, say, gay marriage despite its total want of constitutional mooring, then re-impose it when 37 million Californians have the temerity to buck their robed betters in a referendum—with the law profs tut-tutting that such “fundamental” matters are beyond the competence of the rabble.

To show just how wayward the place we have landed, how removed from our trailblazing commitment to popular sovereignty, is the burden of Gary L. McDowell’s powerful new book, The Language of Law and the Foundations of American Constitutionalism Professor McDowell, a...

 

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