The U.S. Constitution generated reaction from British constitutionalists, and at the heart of the debate was the idea of sovereignty. Walter Bagehot (1826–1877), the author of The English Constitution, criticized the ambiguity of the locus of sovereignty in it, whereas Albert Venn Dicey (1826–1877) thought highly of the federal system of government that divided legislative powers between national and state authorities. The nightmare of totalitarianism in the first half of the twentieth century, on the other hand, demanded the vindication of constitutionalism, which was quintessentially crystallized in Charles H. McIlwain's Constitutionalism, Ancient and Modern.
In the early twenty-first century, issues over constitutionalism became ever more complex. Constitutionalism did not grow out of democratic thought, yet most contemporary states with a constitution are constitutional democracies. This demands that the relationship between constitutionalism and democracy be defined more precisely. The reconciliation between liberal right-based constitutionalism and republican democratic constitutionalism has also been sought. Furthermore, there exists a plurality of constitutions. The British model, for example, manifests parliamentary sovereignty, whereas the American model locates sovereignty in the people. The wide reception of constitutionalism beyond the West has created new varieties of constitutionalism (transformative constitutionalism). The emerging European Union after World War II, followed by the post-1989 developments in Eastern Europe in particular, has brought the debate over constitutionalism to an entirely new phase: constitutionalism beyond the framework of the nation state, and even the possibility of global constitutionalism.
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