Legal and Constitutional History

Below are two statements about U.S. legal and constitutional history. For your final exam, write two essays addressing these statements. Please observe a 900-word limit on each essay; any words over that limit will not be considered in grading. The two essays will be of equal value in calculating your final score.A good essay will use the historical materials presented in this class in support of a well-defined argumentative position. You may agree, disagree or agree in part and disagree in part with the statement. In any case, be sure to take a clear stance on the issues. A well-written essay will begin with a strong statement of your thesis and will then continue with support for your claims derived from the facts, ideas and history that we have studied in the course.I will be happy to discuss your answers to these questions. However, I will not review sample answers.1. In the early 20th century, American judges enforced a version of legal liberalism that protected economic rights against political intervention. But when legislation limited political rights, civil rights or reproductive rights, the Supreme Court deferred to executive and legislative authority.By the mid-20th century, however, legal liberalism was no longer being used to protect economic rights and was instead re-conceptualized as a means of identifying political, civil and reproductive rights and protecting these rights against attacks by political authorities.Since the 1980s, Americans have generally been united in their commitment to a liberal understanding of the rule of law. Today, though, Americans increasingly battle politically regarding which rights citizens ought to enjoy. These battles pit those who want to protect economic rights and 20th century hierarchical power, against those whose priority is political, civil and reproductive rights for all. Only by protecting the mid-20th century changes in constitutional interpretation can the real meaning of the Constitution be preserved.2. The role of law in the lives of women in America was shaped by the doctrine of coverture and the legal characterization of the role of women as primarily wives and mothers. In the 1970s, feminist activists attempted to redefine the role of women in American society. The Congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972 and the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade seemed to recast the role of women as full citizens, entitled to both political and economic equality. However, the backlash against this movement towards full equality soon limited the feminists’ victory. The legal system’s traditional commitment tocreating and supporting family as the basic social unit justifies imposing limits upon women’s autonomy.

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