Kinder Institute: Hidden Laws – Understanding the Resilience of the American Constitution

Treaty of Paris, Benjamin West

Kinder Institute: “Hidden Laws: Understanding the Resilience of the American Constitution” with Robinson Woodward-Burns


The Kinder Institute at the University of Missouri, a JMC partner program, will be hosting a virtual colloquium with JMC fellow Robinson Woodward-Burns on “Hidden Laws: Understanding the Resilience of the American Constitution.” Professor Woodward-Burns will present his research on the way in which frequent state constitutional revision not only pre-emptively resolves both constitutional questions and potential inter-branch conflicts at the federal level but, in doing so, also grants state constitutions a democratic legitimacy that the national Constitution lacks:

The United States is home to the world’s oldest national constitution. What explains the American Constitution’s relative longevity? Presenting his book, Hidden Laws: How State Constitutions Stabilize American Politics, Robinson Woodward-Burns argues that ongoing state constitutional revision resolves national constitutional controversies, preempting amendments to the federal Constitution and quieting conflict between the branches of the federal government. He elaborates this claim with original datasets of all 12,000 proposed federal constitutional amendments and all 412 state constitutional revision bodies from 1776-2020, backed by chronological case studies of state constitutional revision. Finally, he argues this frequent, popular revision grants the state constitutions a democratic legitimacy that the national Constitution lacks.

Friday, January 21, 2021
A virtual event through Zoom • 4:30 PM EST

Free – email Thomas Kane,, to be added to the list of people who get Zoom links for events on the day that they are occurring.

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Robinson Woodward-Burns is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Howard University, where he researches American constitutional thought and development, focusing on civil rights, federalism, slavery, abolitionism, and transcendentalism. He has published on American constitutionalism in The Journal of Politics, Polity, The Maryland Law Review, The Tulsa Law Review, and The Washington Post. His first book, Hidden Laws: How State Constitutions Stabilize American Politics, will be published in 2021 by Yale University Press.

Professor Woodward-Burns is a JMC fellow.

Learn more about Robinson Woodward-Burns >>



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