The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction

Reviews with Integrated Context

Books You May Like

The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction

Author: Akhil Reed Amar
Publisher: Yale University Press
Copyright: 1998
Pages: 432
Cover Price: $ 19.95

Enter a word or phrase in the box below

"The Bill of Rights stands as the high temple of our constitutional order--America's Parthenon--and yet we lack a clear view of it," Akhil Reed Amar writes in his introduction to The Bill of Rights. "Instead of being studied holistically, the Bill has been broken up ... with each segment examined in isolation." With The Bill of Rights, Amar aims to put the pieces back together and take a longer view of a document few Americans truly understand. Part history of the Bill, part analysis of what the Founding Fathers' intentions really were, this book provides a unique interpretation of the Constitution. It is Amar's hypothesis that, contrary to popular belief, the Bill of Rights was not originally constructed to protect the minority against the majority, but rather to empower popular majorities.

It wasn't until 19th-century post-Civil War reconstruction and the introduction of the 14th Amendment that the notion of individual rights took hold. Prior to that, the various amendments to the Constitution that make up the Bill of Rights were more about the structure of government and designed to protect citizens against a self-interested regime. Yet so great has been the impact of the 14th Amendment on modern legal thought that the Bill's original intentions have almost been forgotten.

Through skillful interpretation and solid research, Amar both reconstructs the original thinking of the Founding Fathers and chronicles the radical changes that have occurred since the inclusion of the 14th Amendment in the Bill of Rights. The results make for provocative reading no matter where you stand on the political spectrum.

Background Information

The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee certain freedoms for Americans and are collectively terms the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers are those men who participated in the country's principal documents, primarily the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Reconstruction Acts after the Civil War were designed to guarantee the wartime gains of freed slaves and Republicans. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified after the Civil War in order to guarantee the rights of freed slaves against the state governments of the former Confederacy.