As we confront the challenges of the “War on Terrorism,” it is useful to look back at our own history to understand how in past crises we have struck the balance between liberty and security. In this Essay, Professor Geoffrey Stone considers how Abraham Lincoln dealt with the conflict between free expression and military necessity during the course of the Civil War. Although we tend to think of Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus as the paramount civil liberties issue in this era (apart from slavery), Professor Stone explores how Lincoln, facing often severe criticism of his administration, struggled to balance free speech rights against the imperiled security of the Union.
Geoffrey R. Stone
Testing the Constitution
We live in the age of empiricism, and in that age, constitutional law is a relative backwater. Although quantitative methods have transformed entire fields of scholarly inquiry, reshaping what we ask and what we know, those who write about the Constitution rarely resort to quantitative methodology to test their theories. That seems unfortunate, because empirical analysis can illuminate important questions of constitutional law. Or, at least, that is the question to be tested in this Symposium.
We brought together a terrific group of scholars with a unique assignment. We paired distinguished constitutional thinkers with equally accomplished empiricists. We asked the law scholars to identify a core question, assumption, or doctrine from constitutional law, and we asked the empiricist to take a cut at answering it, or at least at figuring out how one might try to answer it. We understood that their answers might be preliminary at best, that the questions might be resistant to easy answers. This is so, in part, because empiricism is as much a means of refining questions as it is a way of answering them.
The balance of this Foreword is, in a sense, an introduction to the idea that more serious empirical analysis can further both constitutional law scholarship and constitutional law decisionmaking. Hence our title: Testing the Constitution.