Crosskey, William W. (1894–1968)

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CROSSKEY, WILLIAM W. (1894–1968)

William Winslow Crosskey's reputation as a constitutional historian rests upon his Politics and the Constitution in the History of the United States (1953, 1960), a learned, controversial reinterpretation of the framing of the Constitution. Crosskey, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, argued that the Framers of the Constitution sought to create a unitary system of government with virtually unlimited legislative powers, that Congress would have supreme authority within the constitutional system, and that the power of judicial review was intended merely as a means for the judiciary to defend itself against encroachments by the other branches of government. Crosskey began with two premises: first, that the words of the Constitution should be understood according to the meanings they had in common usage in 1787; and, second, that the source relied upon by most historians to determine the intent of the Framers, james madison'sNotes of the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, had been deliberately distorted by Madison to support the "limited-powers" interpretation of the Constitution favored by Jeffersonian Republicans. Crosskey's third volume, completed posthumously by William W. Jeffrey, Jr., and published in 1980, asserted that nationalist sentiments and ideas pervaded the political climate in the United Statesfrom the Revolution to the opening of the constitutional convention of 1787.

Richard B. Bernstein