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Theme and Variations


State constitutions are worth the attention. They are, and have always been, different from the United States Constitution. Because state constitutions are typically easier to replace or amend than the United States Constitution, they reflect the political movements that have swept the country from time to time. As Professor Tarr has observed, provisions based in Jacksonian Democracy, Populism, and the Progressive movement have caused a "layering" in many state documents, which has affected both substance and interpretation." This makes the study of state constitutions interesting, and important too, because the themes might be similar from state to state, but the variations are remarkably different. Those variations make (and reflect) a qualitative difference in popular attitudes, government activities, and daily life in each of America's fifty separate communities. Professor Robert Williams's textbook, State Constitutional Law: Cases and Materials, does a remarkably good job in setting forth the themes of, and the variations in, America's state constitutions. This is a challenging job, given the surprising diversity in scope, length, style, subject matter, and solutions among the fifty jurisdictions. But Williams selects divergent examples from the provisions, cases, and commentaries regarding various sections of our constitutions. These, when supplemented with additional local materials, give students a background that will enable them to work with state documents wherever they later practice