I am honored to have been included in this Symposium on Jack Balkin’s new book, The Cycles of Constitutional Time. Professor Balkin is a giant in the legal academy and a public intellectual of the first rank. Here, as elsewhere, he has written a book that combines careful study of American history and constitutionalism with lucid, propulsive prose. The other contributors to this Symposium are themselves a Who’s Who in constitutional law, history, and political science. I am not sure I quite belong in this exalted company. Even though I have written about some specialized – if sometimes topical – corners of the American Constitution, I am not a constitutional theorist in the large sense. I am also not a trained historian. Such historical writing as I have done is mostly small-bore inquiries into things like the import of homicide prosecutions in Boone County, Missouri, in the Civil War era, or might be disparaged by real certificated historians as what Alfred Kelly labeled “law office history.” Nor am I a political scientist, despite having the bachelor’s degree in that topic that so often presages a descent into law school. I am just an old criminal lawyer who now teaches and writes about whatever interests him. Hence, I am not really qualified to critique constitutional theory of the sweep presented in Professor Balkin’s book. Nonetheless, reading it has not only informed me, but stimulated a few questions, which I explore in this Article.

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