chapter  7
32 Pages

The Crisis in Constitutionalism

An argument can be made for conflict within consensus so far as the Constitution alone is concerned; but it would be very difficult to make a comparable case for the Court. Between 1895 and 1920 a cluster of major changes took place — so major that alarmed observers believed a “crisis in constitutionalism” was occurring. From time to time newspapers noted the Court’s physical obscurity and the justices’ disinterest in public relations. In the years after 1898, when Chinese leaders began to contemplate constitutionalism, an unfamiliar phenomenon, they did so because they regarded constitutions as a source of national unity and strength. Although Empress Tzu-hsi proclaimed the throne’s adherence to principles of constitutionalism, she postponed the proclamation of specific constitutional institutions until China was “ready” for them. A majority of American citizens believed that the Constitution should not be amended too casually; but a vocal minority insisted that the founders had been “aware that experience and development would require changes.”