Dr Nicholas Cole, Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College and Senior Fellow at the RAI, delivered the 2023 Maurice and Muriel Fulton Lecture in Legal History at the University of Chicago, speaking on Writing America’s Constitutions: The Rise (and Fall) of “Government Through Reflection and Choice”.
Instituted in 1985, the Fulton Lectureship brings a distinguished legal historian to the University of Chicago Law School every year.
The lecture examined several related questions. How well-understood were American constitutional conventions and legislative processes by the public? How did the tradition of formal debate come to be embedded in American political life and in the operation of broader society? For what reasons and with what consequence has this tradition of constitution-writing and legislative debate decayed and fallen into disuse and technical obscurity? Returning attention to the processes underlying the creation of America’s state and Federal constitutional texts, the lecture re-examined the mechanics of the constitutional conventions placing them back within a broader tradition and social history of formal debate—something that is today foundational to many aspects of American life.
A recording of the lecture is available on the University of Chicago Law School's YouTube channel.