Two Understandings of Supremacy: An Essay

By: Vincent J. Samar


Does the supremacy provision of Article VI of the U.S. Consti- tution undermine the legal force of international law in the United States? Recently, there has been some debate on this issue arising out of the claim that if the U.S. Constitution is “the supreme law of the land,” and that only constitutional officers of the United States, in keeping with their responsibilities to uphold the Constitution, can de- cide what is international law for the U.S. 1 Such debates are not new to the history of the world. For much of world history, national rulers have claimed that their legal authority derives from some supreme source, be it: God, 2 tradition, 3 or, in more recent democratic times of which the Constitution is a part, the people.


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