About the Book

What is the American rule of law? Is it a paradigm case of the strong constitutionalism concept of the rule of law or has it fallen short of its rule of law ambitions? This book traces the promise and paradox of the American rule of law in three interwoven ways.

  • It focuses on explicating the ideals of the American rule of law by asking: how do we interpret its history and the goals of its constitutional framers to see the rule of law ambitions its foundational institutions express?
  • It considers those constitutional institutions as inextricable from the problem of race in the United States and the tensions between the rule of law as a protector of property rights and the rule of law as a restrictor on arbitrary power and a guarantor of legal equality. In that context, it explores the distinctive role of Black liberation movements in developing the American rule of law.
  • Finally, it considers the extent to which the American rule of law is compromised at its frontiers, and the extent that those compromises undermine legal protections Americans enjoy in the interior. It asks how America reflects the legal contradictions of capitalism and empire outside its borders, and the impact of those contradictions on its external goals.

The Rule of Law in the United States: An Unfinished Project of Black Liberation was released on December 16, 2021, by Hart Publishing/Bloomsbury, as Volume 1 in the series The Rule of Law In Context.

About the Author

Paul Gowder is a Professor of Law at Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law. His research is centered on the rule of law, constitutional law, critical race theory, and platform governance, among other subjects.

The Rule of Law in the United States: An Unfinished Project of Black Liberation is Gowder's second book on the rule of law; the first is The Rule of Law in the Real World (Cambridge University Press, 2016), which provided a general theory of what the rule of law is, its normative value, and the conditions under which it can be sustainable in realistic political states.

Some original sources cited in the book

For the convenience of future scholars, this website includes a handful of original sources cited in The Rule of Law in the United States: An Unfinished Project of Black Liberation which are both out of copyright and might be inconvenient to find. All files below are in PDF, and some may be fairly large (such as scanned newspapers). Note: As of April 3, 2024, some of the larger files have been temporarily removed---this website has been receiving an unusual amount of automated traffic, which appears malicious and which is costing a surprising amount of bandwidth. If you're looking for one of the files below, please send me an e-mail.

Document Page(s) of reference in book
Letter from Martin Delany to Frederick Douglass in North Star, 1848, regarding Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 (pp. 2-3) (temporarily removed) 64
Statute of Edward III, 1354 (early usage of the term "due process") 75
EOIR memorandum 94-10: Wearing of the Robe During Immigration Judge Hearings (October 17, 1994) 149
Daily National Intelligencer, February 8, 1866 (Johnson-Douglass conversation on page 2) (temporarily removed) 166 (n. 138)
Southern Recorder, April 9, 1827 (editorial re: Native American citizenship and slavery---in particular, see footnote in first column on page 3) (temporarily removed) 167