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The contract clause : a constitutional history / James W. Jr. Ely.

By: Ely, James W., Jr, 1938- [author.].
Material type: TextTextSeries: JSTOR eBooks.Publisher: Lawrence, Kansas : University Press of Kansas, 2016. 2015)Description: 1 online resource.Content type: text Media type: computer Carrier type: online resourceISBN: 9780700623082; 0700623086.Subject(s): Right of property -- United States | Liberty of contract -- United StatesAdditional physical formats: Print version:: No titleDDC classification: 346.7302/3 Other classification: LAW018000 | POL030000 | POL020000 Online resources: Click here to view this ebook. Summary: "This book is a history of the contract clause of the U.S. Constitution from its creation to the present day. Created in response to widespread state efforts to restructure debts after the Revolution, the clause provided that states were barred from "altering or impairing the obligation of contracts." The exact scope and meaning of this language spawned litigation for much of the history of the republic. It has been interpreted to cover private contracts as well as contracts with states, corporate charters, and compacts between states. However it does not apply to the federal government. In the years before 1898 and the passage of federal bankruptcy legislation, it affected the ability of states to create their own insolvency statutes. Through the period before the New Deal it was used to limit some of the powers of the states especially to the extent that they would dilute the value of debts owed. With the growth of federal regulation of the economy and the development of federal bankruptcy law, the importance of the contracts clause has declined-- Provided by publisher.Summary: Few provisions of the American Constitution have had such a tumultuous history as the contract clause. Prompted by efforts in a number of states to interfere with debtor-creditor relationships after the Revolution, the clause--Article I, Section 10--reads that no state shall "pass any law impairing the Obligation of Contracts." Honoring contractual commitments, in the framers' view, would serve the public interest to encourage commerce and economic growth. How the contract clause has fared, as chronicled in this book by James W. Ely, Jr., tells us a great deal about the shifting concerns and assumptions of Americans. Its history provides a window on matters central to American constitutional history, including the protection of economic rights, the growth of judicial review, and the role of federalism. Under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall, the Supreme Court construed the provision expansively, and it rapidly became the primary vehicle for federal judicial review of state legislation before the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. Indeed, the contract clause was one of the most litigated provisions of the Constitution throughout the nineteenth century, and its history reflects the impact of wars, economic distress, and political currents on reading the Constitution. Ely shows how, over time, the courts carved out several malleable exceptions to the constitutional protection of contracts--most notably the notion of an inalienable police power--thus weakening the contract clause and enhancing state regulatory authority. His study documents the near-fatal blow dealt to the provision by New Deal constitutionalism, when the perceived need for governmental intervention in the economy superseded the economic rights of individuals. Though the 1970s saw a modest revival of interest in the contract clause, the criteria for invoking it remain uncertain. And yet, as state and local governments try to trim the benefits of public sector employees, the provision has once again figured prominently in litigation. In this book, James Ely gives us a timely, analytical lens for understanding these contemporary challenges, as well as the critical historical significance of the contract clause."-- Provided by publisher.
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Electronic Book UT Tyler Online
Online
KF4608 .E49 2016 (Browse shelf) https://ezproxy.uttyler.edu/login?url=http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/j.ctt1h64p5g Available ocn962355957

Includes bibliographical references and index.

"This book is a history of the contract clause of the U.S. Constitution from its creation to the present day. Created in response to widespread state efforts to restructure debts after the Revolution, the clause provided that states were barred from "altering or impairing the obligation of contracts." The exact scope and meaning of this language spawned litigation for much of the history of the republic. It has been interpreted to cover private contracts as well as contracts with states, corporate charters, and compacts between states. However it does not apply to the federal government. In the years before 1898 and the passage of federal bankruptcy legislation, it affected the ability of states to create their own insolvency statutes. Through the period before the New Deal it was used to limit some of the powers of the states especially to the extent that they would dilute the value of debts owed. With the growth of federal regulation of the economy and the development of federal bankruptcy law, the importance of the contracts clause has declined-- Provided by publisher.

Few provisions of the American Constitution have had such a tumultuous history as the contract clause. Prompted by efforts in a number of states to interfere with debtor-creditor relationships after the Revolution, the clause--Article I, Section 10--reads that no state shall "pass any law impairing the Obligation of Contracts." Honoring contractual commitments, in the framers' view, would serve the public interest to encourage commerce and economic growth. How the contract clause has fared, as chronicled in this book by James W. Ely, Jr., tells us a great deal about the shifting concerns and assumptions of Americans. Its history provides a window on matters central to American constitutional history, including the protection of economic rights, the growth of judicial review, and the role of federalism. Under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall, the Supreme Court construed the provision expansively, and it rapidly became the primary vehicle for federal judicial review of state legislation before the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. Indeed, the contract clause was one of the most litigated provisions of the Constitution throughout the nineteenth century, and its history reflects the impact of wars, economic distress, and political currents on reading the Constitution. Ely shows how, over time, the courts carved out several malleable exceptions to the constitutional protection of contracts--most notably the notion of an inalienable police power--thus weakening the contract clause and enhancing state regulatory authority. His study documents the near-fatal blow dealt to the provision by New Deal constitutionalism, when the perceived need for governmental intervention in the economy superseded the economic rights of individuals. Though the 1970s saw a modest revival of interest in the contract clause, the criteria for invoking it remain uncertain. And yet, as state and local governments try to trim the benefits of public sector employees, the provision has once again figured prominently in litigation. In this book, James Ely gives us a timely, analytical lens for understanding these contemporary challenges, as well as the critical historical significance of the contract clause."-- Provided by publisher.

Print version record.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

CHOICE Review

After nearly 80 years since the publication of Benjamin F. Wright's classic work The Contract Clause of the Constitution (1938), James W. Ely Jr. (Vanderbilt) provides a new chronological perspective. Ely's well documented analysis persuasively illustrates that the study of the contract clause provides a historical window into the shifting concerns and assumptions of Americans. Article 1, section 10, in part states "No state shall ... pass any ... Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts." Ely goes beyond the US Supreme Court's interpretation by including contract law development at the state level and probes the under-researched area of parallel contract clauses in state constitutions. The author chronicles the evolution of contract clause jurisprudence from the post-Revolutionary era to today's litigation over public sector employee benefits. Ely's carefully crafted, theoretically sound, historically grounded work offers a timely review of the contract clause. Specialist and general readers alike will gain insight from Ely's well documented critical study. It is a useful addition to the available research analyzing article 1, section 10 of the US Constitution. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. --John M. Trayhan, Our Lady of the Lake University

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