It is often said that winners get to write history. Well, it's also true that successful constitutions dictate what we think of as the goals and parameters of constitutionalism, along with which legal and political ideas are plausible. In this talk, Professor Robert Tsai will argue that we have much to learn from the failed constitutions of America's past. Drawing from his forthcoming book, "Defiant Designs: America's Forgotten Constitutions" (Harvard, 2012), Professor Tsai will invite the audience to examine John Brown's Constitution, reflect on what it signified on the eve of civil war, and consider the paths not taken. Today Brown is remembered for his attack on Harpers Ferry and his subsequent execution for treason. The talk will recover Brown's efforts to become a Founding Father.
Monday, November 7, 2011
I will be giving a talk based on the book at the Law School for the College of William and Mary on November 10, 2011. Here is a synopsis and further details of the talk:
Thursday, September 29, 2011
This short essay discusses some of the ways in which the Aryan movement in America activates gendered beliefs for the goal of legal, political, and cultural transformation. In recent years, the community has moved from common law theories of white sovereignty to more robust forms of racial constitutionalism.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
The nuclear age dawned when atomic bombs devastated two Japanese cities. Fearing annihilation once America's monopoly on atomic technology disappeared, Robert Hutchins, the Chancellor of the University of Chicago, convened the Committee to Draft a World Constitution. In 1948, the group published a Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution. Declaring that "the age of nations must end," the constitution created a strong President, a representative legislative branch, a World Tribunal with extended jurisdiction, and a Tribune charged to defend the civil rights and liberties of the people. The plan for a World Republic offered an alternative to the fledgling United Nations, which preserved the sanctity of national sovereignty and seemed too weak to deal with matters of war and nuclear proliferation.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
In the mid-nineteenth century, followers of Etienne Cabet traveled to America to establish "Icaria," a republic founded on socialist and democratic principles. With the blessing of the Illinois legislature, the Icarians embarked upon a bold experiment in self-governance. Although they saw themselves as part of an international community, citizens of Icaria also organized themselves into colonies ruled by Icarian law. In 1850, the people approved a constitution that regulated nearly every facet of economic and social life. Strife between rival factions within the community, a painful transition from charismatic leadership to democratic governance, and sharp disagreements over property and sex equality eventually led to the dissolution of Icaria in America.
Monday, July 12, 2010
On June 11, 1832, settlers in a part of modern day New Hampshire gathered and declared themselves citizens of a new republic. At the time, the land was the subject of an international boundary dispute between Canada and the United States. After working the land, inhabitants of the region began to worry that their labors would be for naught as long as legal uncertainty persisted. So they engaged in self-help by creating their own rule of law mechanisms, selectively resisting the claims of competing jurisdictions, and engaging in diplomacy. For a brief moment in time, the people of Indian Stream governed themselves and tried to fend off incursions by their neighbors. Here is the remarkable Constitution of the Republic of Indian Stream.