Chapman, Lucas and Mitchell: How Constitutions Are Made
Professor A. E. Dick Howard is in the process of preparing for a variety of endeavors and has asked us — Myra Hiott Chapman '11, Brinton Lucas '11 and Katie Mitchell '11 — to gather information on a diverse range of topics. Our work will directly contribute to three of Professor Howard’s many projects. The first of these is an essay on comparative constitutionalism commissioned by the Virginia Journal of International Law for its 50th anniversary volume. He also plans to use their research in preparing a series of programs he will present as the 2009-10 nonresident visiting scholar to the National Constitution Center and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. Finally, our work will be incorporated into a course Howard will teach this fall, Constitutionalism: History and Jurisprudence.
Myra Hiott Chapman
I have been researching an often-neglected aspect of American constitutional law — the state constitution-making process. I have focused on the earliest state constitutions. Of particular interest is the transfer of ideas — how government is structured, how people are represented in it and how fundamentally it is justified — both between states and from states to other countries. I have looked at key figures in early state constitution-making processes, identified larger themes and patterns of early state constitutional development and compared documents within states over a period of time, as well as among the several states. Then I have used this information to gauge the extent of, and identify new examples of, the influence of early state constitutional practice in the formation of other constitutional democracies.
This summer I have been assisting Professor Howard in his work on an essay examining the modern renaissance of comparative constitutionalism that will be published in the 50th anniversary volume of the Virginia Journal of International Law. The aim of the project is to discern why the discipline of comparative constitutionalism has undergone a resurgence in recent decades as well as describe the field’s present purposes. The topic has proven to be a fascinating and expansive one. My research has focused on everything from debates over the use of comparative constitutional law in domestic jurisprudence to the growth of judicial review around the world. Aside from providing me with a tremendous amount of knowledge in the area of comparative constitutionalism, the experience has allowed me to understand and appreciate the aspects of our own constitutional order on a much deeper level.
Professor Howard asked me to research the influence of French constitutionalism on constitution-making in other countries and political subdivisions. I began by identifying the set of values that characterize French constitutional thinking. I studied the historical, social and political factors that contributed to the development of those values and documented their evolution from the Revolutionary period to present day. My next step was to compare French constitutionalism to American constitutionalism. I also examined the extent to which the disparities between them may be attributed to cultural differences. The remainder of my research will be dedicated to the methods by which French constitutional ideas have been transferred. My project has been extremely rewarding both on an academic and a personal level. I studied French culture for many years prior to enrolling in law school, and I have found it fascinating to learn how that culture is reflected in France’s constitutional traditions.