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About Christian G. Fritz

Conventional accounts of American constitutional history, theory, and jurisprudence cast today’s constitutionalism—the idea that “the People” are the sovereign whose written constitution grants and guides the legitimate exercise of government power—as an unbroken chain linking the present to the 1787 federal constitutional convention.
This interpretation came to prominence in the 20th century despite its inability to account for many prominent features of the growth and development of America’s experience with constitutional government. Examining the broader historical context of American constitutionalism can make sense of many things that existing studies fail to explain or dismiss as aberrational or illegitimate.
Professor Christian Fritz’s on-going study of American constitutionalism expands the understanding of federal and state constitutions before 1900 and their differing impacts on the nation’s development. A central theme in this work involves the foundation for American constitutionalism laid during the American Revolution. This foundation legitimized government and law as an expression of the will of the People acting as the sovereign. Fritz tests today’s understanding that the constitutional vision of the Federal Framers epitomized American thinking on government after the Revolution. The first stages of his research suggest that much this contemporary perspective is incomplete: the views of the federal Framers became the constitutional norm only after a protracted struggle that ended not in 1787 and was still in contention as the nation went to civil war.
This interpretation was most recently explored in Professor Fritz’s American Sovereigns: The People and America’s Constitutional Tradition Before the Civil War(Cambridge University Press, 2008). The book offers a portrait of constitutionalism during the decades following Independence and that it significantly differed from today’s constitutionalism. He explores ideas that today seem like “constitutional dinosaurs.” However, their eventual demise does not detract from the fact that they were seriously discussed, considered and acted upon. How, when and why these ideas that competed with the Founder’s vision became extinct is the focus of Fritz’s study. He is continuing to trace the fate of these ideas in the years following the period explored in American Sovereigns.
His earlier studies of the conventional accounts of American constitutionalism by historians, lawyers and political scientists are presented in “Fallacies of American Constitutionalism,” published by the Rutgers Law Journal, and in “Recovering the Lost Worlds of America’s Written Constitutions,” which appeared in the Albany Law Review. Both articles are offered as PDF files on this site.
Christian G. Fritz is a professor of law at the University of New Mexico School of Law, where he has held both the Dickason and Weihofen professorships. Fritz has a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Professor Fritz also serves on the editorial board of The Federal Evidence Review,a monthly electronic publication (link available at side column). The Review focuses on current developments in the law of evidence in the federal courts and on the application of the Federal Rules of Evidence.


Present Faculty Member, University of New Mexico


History and Law

American Constitutionalism (6)

Reviews of American Sovereigns (10)

Prizes for American Sovereigns (1)