The American Founding and Global Justice: Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian Approaches

By David Golove

On one conventional account, a constitution is quintessentially a national affair. It constitutes the state for a particular polity, creating the various organs and branches of government, defining the powers that they exercise, and setting forth the procedural modalities through which they adopt policy, execute the laws, and adjudicate legal disputes. In most cases, it also declares a list of fundamental rights that constrain government officials in the exercise of their powers over citizens and, in federal constitutions, defines the role of subnational governmental units, the principles governing their interrelationships, and the immunities they may claim against central authorities. On this account, a constitution is made by the citizens of a particular polity for themselves as an expression of their popular sovereignty, and its purpose is to promote the flourishing of that polity and of its members, while insuring respect for their rights and for the rule of law.

Though inward looking, the constitution does not ignore the existence of the outside world. It provides the state with powers to conduct war, make treaties, conduct foreign affairs, and the like. To be sure, its institutional arrangements in this context are likely to differ substantially from those designed for the conduct of domestic affairs. The executive, for example, typically has broader powers and wider discretion. But the fundamental aim of the constitution remains the same: the organs of the state are empowered to conduct foreign relations in order to secure and promote the national interest and defend the rights of its citizens on the global stage.

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