The Reign of Law
Marbury V. Madison and the Construction of AmericaeBook - 1997
Kahn centers his exploration on the 1803 Supreme Court case of Marbury v. Madison -- still the greatest of our constitutional cases. Kahn shows that Marbury is the judicial response to President Thomas Jefferson's belief that his election represented a Second American Revolution. Kahn uses the confrontation between president and Court to analyze the contrasting ways in which the revolutionary and the legal imaginations understand and give shape to political events. This contest continues today in the conflicting demands we make for a politics that preserves the past yet celebrates popular innovation.
Kahn shows that the rule of law is our deepest political myth. It carries forward a Western religious tradition in which law appeared as divine revelation. We have secularized this conception, substituting the popular sovereign for the divine and revolution for revelation. Yet law's rule continues to appear to us as a representation of the sovereign's will made apparent in an extraordinary moment of revolution.