For David Golove and Daniel Hulsebosch, current NYU Law Review article will lead to a book

For many scholars, publication of an article is the end of a process. But for NYU Law professors David Golove and Daniel Hulsebosch, whose co-authored piece is the lead article in the October issue of the New York University Law Review, it is only any early step in an ongoing project—one which will culminate in a book. Titled “A Civilized Nation: The Early American Constitution, the Law of Nations and the Pursuit of International Recognition,” it argues that the “animating purpose” of the Constitution was to facilitate admission of the U.S. into the European-centered community of ‘civilized states.’”

Golove is the Hiller Family Foundation Professor of Law, and Hulsebosch is the Charles Seligson Professor of Law. Hulsebosch offers this summary of what they wrote:

“The point of this first installment of our project was to trace not only the international considerations that contributed to the calling of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, but also to show how the framers sought to construct a government that would maintain fidelity with revolutionary popular sovereignty while meeting its international obligations. International recognition was a paramount goal of the Revolution, along with self-government.  Both were announced in the Declaration of Independence.  But balancing popular sovereignty—national sovereignty as embodied in a republic based on the people's will—with international commitments under the law of nations proved very hard to do in the late eighteenth-century Atlantic world. (Of course, it still presents challenges, for both new and old republics.) Seeking the proper balance between these two goals was, we argue, a central problem in the drafting and ratification debates; it also remained a main theme—arguably, the main theme—of American constitutional development in the early Republic.”

The thesis is provocative, and reader reaction so far, Hulsebosch reports, has been varied: “Some seem persuaded, others are intrigued but want to know more, and a few remain quite skeptical.” He adds: “It's become clear to us that this is a book project, and we're now trying to figure out exactly what kind of book it should be.”

Posted December 6, 2010