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61 Fordham L. Rev. 497 (1992-1993)
The Sleeper Wakes: The History and Legacy of the Twenty-Seventh Amendment

handle is hein.journals/flr61 and id is 507 raw text is: ARTICLES
No provision of the United States Constitution has a more drawn-out, tortured
history than the Twenty-seventh Amendment, which was ratified more than two
centuries after Representative James Madison introduced it in the First Congress.
In this Article; Professor Bernstein traces the Amendment's origins to the legisla-
tive political culture of the late eighteenth century, as influenced by the contro-
versy over ratifying the Constitution. He then examines the perennial
controversies over congressional compensation in American historiy elucidating
how in the 1980s and 1990s public anger at Congress reached critical mass suffi-
cient to propel the 1789 compensation amendment into the Constitution. Finally,
this Article demonstrates that the adoption of the Amendment has consequences
beyond its effects on congressional compensation-both for the unresolved issues
of the Article V amending process and for the practice of amendment politics.
* © 1992 by Richard B. Bernstein
Adjunct Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School; Assistant Editor, The
Papers of John Jay, Columbia University. This Article adapts and expands material
presented in Richard B. Bernstein with Jerome Agel, Amending America: If We Love
the Constitution So Much, Why Do We Keep Trying to Change It? (forthcoming 1993).
I am grateful to William E. Nelson, Christopher N. Eisgruber, John Phillip Reid,
Howard Venable, William P. La Piana, Peter C. Hoffer, Walter Walsh, Bill Braverman,
Larry Kramer, and the other members of the New York University Law School Collo-
quium on Legal History for their incisive and lively comments on an earlier version of
this Article. I am also indebted to Professor Thomas C. Mackey of the University of
Louisville; Professor Martin Flaherty of Fordham Law School; Professor Ruti Teitel of
New York Law School; Professor Stephen L. Schechter of Russell Sage College; Ene
Sirvet, editor of The Papers of John Jay, Columbia University; Joanne B. Freeman, De-
partment of History, University of Virginia; Linda Faulhaber, Assistant Editor of Consti-
tution magazine; Paul Golob of Times Books; Jerome Agel; Dennis G. Combs; Phillip G.
Haultcoeur; Steven J. Bernstein; Bob and Barbara Tramonte; Stephanie A. Thompson;
April Holder; Joan Challinor Diantha D. Schull; and Ron Blumer.
Anyone who does research in the history of the early American republic owes an incal-
culable debt of gratitude to the labors of Charlene E. Bickford, Kenneth R. Bowling, and
Helen E. Veit, editors of the Documentary History of the First Federal Congress (1972-),
and to John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, and Richard Leffler, editors of the Docu-
mentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (1976-). I
am especially grateful for their kindness, generosity, and encouragement.
I am beholden to New York Law School for providing invaluable logistical and colle-
gial support for my historical research and writing, and to the staff of the Fordham Law
Review for their professionalism and good humor.
Finally, I extend special thanks to Gregory D. Watson, the stepfather of the Twenty-
seventh amendment, who in several telephone interviews graciously reviewed my account
of the Amendment and the history of which he was so much a part; and to Timothy L
Hanford, Esq., Assistant Minority Tax Counsel, Committee on Ways and Means, U.S.
House of Representatives, who first piqued my curiosity about the compensation amend-
ment more than four years ago, and who has helped me satisfy that curiosity with unfail-
ing good humor and friendship.

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