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In Search of Fundamental Law
Louisiana's Constitutions, 1812-1974

Warren M. Billings and Edward F. Haas
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Louisiana's rich culture, history, and social life are mirrored in its 10 Constitutions.

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Constitutionalism signifies a commonly held body of opinions regarding the bases of political authority in the United States. Its origins extend to England through colonial times to the era of the Revolution, where it emerged from the debates leading up to independence. Such ideas as the sovereignty of the people, a republican form of government, separation of powers, checks and balances, rotation in office, guarantees of individual rights, and the rule of law number among its organization elements. These precepts are readily recognizable as the structural principles that gained lively voice in the Constitution. Thereafter those premises acquired ever more nuances as usage invested the Constitution with deeper meanings than those imagined by its authors.

Constitutionalism in Louisiana has always embraced the search for usable fundamental law. As expressions of fundamental law, the Louisiana constitutions represent more than the mere renderings of their architects. They defined the state at precise moments in time. Their wording, the reasons for adopting or discarding them, their adherents, their opponents, all comprise facets of Louisiana history. Accordingly they contributed significantly to Louisiana being what is was once and is now.

Louisiana has a long, complex, and utterly engaging past. Its people were graced by a richly variegated heritage, the roots of which trace to a Latin rather than an English beginning. That characteristic always rendered its people, its folkways, and its legal customs unusual. When Louisiana entered the Union, it was as much a Western as a Southern state. Its metropolis, New Orleans, set it apart from the tramontane states as well. Linked by the Mississippi River to the interior of the continent, Louisianians shared the Midwesterners' fondness for internal improvements, cheap land, and easy credit. The existence of slavery and plantation agriculture, however, fixed the preoccupation with race as a determinant of political and economic power as firmly in Louisiana as elsewhere in the South. Civil war ended slavery, but racial animosities make their malevolent presence felt to this day. Since the Civil War, the state has lagged behind the rest of the nation by most standards of measurement, though the abundance of its natural bounty, its exotic mores, and the openness of its people were its chief lures to outlanders. The collapse of an oil-driven economy in the 1980s shook the state to its very underpinnings and augured a future of severely painful readjustment.

Louisiana's colorful past is mirrored in its numerous state constitutions. The 1812 document not only satisfied one of the conditions of statehood, but also laid the foundation for the peculiar mixture of Anglo-American and European legal traditions that have characterized Louisiana law and government to the present. The constitutions of 1845, 1852, 1864, 1868, 1879, 1898, 1913, 1921, and 1974 have repeatedly adjusted the state's governmental framework to the political, economic, and social realities of their times. Each constitution is examined in detail by Louisiana's leading constitution authorities.


Introduction, In Search of Fundamental Law: Constitutionalism in Louisiana
Warren M. Billings

Essay 1, From This Seed: The Constitution of 1812
Warren M. Billings

Essay 2, Reform or Experiment? The Constitution of 1845
Judith K. Schafer

Essay 3, Louisiana's "Whig" Constitution Revisited: The Constitution of 1852
Wayne M. Everard

Essay 4, A First-Born Child of Liberty: The Constitution of 1864
Kathryn Page

Essay 5, Black Constitution Makers: The Constitution of 1868
Charles M. Vincent

Essay 6, That the Reign of Robbery Will Never Return to Louisiana: The Constitution of 1879
Ronald M.Labb--†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢--¢â‚¬Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢--†â€™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…¡--¢â‚'ƒâ€šÃ‚©

Essay 7, Little More Than a Family Meeting: The Constitution of 1898
Michael L. Lanza

Essay 8, Can a Legislature Control a Constitutional Convention? The Constitution of 1913
Marie E. Windell

Essay 9, A Legal Monstrosity?
The Constitution of 1921
Matthew J. Schott

Essay 10, Fundamental Special Interests: The Constitution of 1974
Mark T.Carieton

Center for Louisiana Studies

View other titles from The Center for Louisiana Studies

History Books :: United States Books :: State & Local Books :: South (Al, Ar, Fl, Ga, Ky, La, Ms, Nc, Sc, Tn, Va, Wv) Books
Law Books :: Legal History Books

ISBN: 0940984822
ISBN(13-digit): 9780940984820
Copyright: 1993
Library of Congress: 93-71205
Book Publisher: Center for Louisiana Studies
Binding: Sewn
No. of Pages: 188

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