Publication Title

Studia Iuridica

Document Type


Publication Date



Many Americans and outside observers assume that the United States of America was founded upon a cluster of principles known as the "Rule of Law". Indeed, Articles I, II, and III of the United States Constitution of 1789, purportedly establish the rights and authorities of three co-equal branches of government: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Adherence to the Rule of Law in the United States, however, has a much shorter history. During the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, the President of the United States - leader of the executive branch - often ignored or contradicted decisions by the judiciary when it served their ambitions. Monumental architecture and actions by early Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court also testify that the judiciary was the least respected branch in the U.S. government. Not until 1954 with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education and its vigorous enforcement by the President of the United States - nearly 200 years after America's founding - can the United States accurately be described as a nation that consistently follows the Rule of Law. With the repeated questionable and unconstitutional tactics deployed by the Trump administration, however, this period of the Rule of Law in the United States (and elsewhere) must be vigorously protected and nurtured. For in the end, the Rule of Law is merely an idea, a belief that must be acted upon to be realized. When not constantly protected and cultivated, the Rule of Law can and will wither.

Recommended Citation

Ryan Rowberry, The Short History of the Rule of Law in the United States, 79 Studia Iuridica 14 (2019).





First Page


Last Page


Included in

Legal History Commons