The Corner


Re: Reading Constitutional Amendments

In response to Reading Constitutional Amendments

Ramesh writes:

If the Fourteenth Amendment scaled back the First Amendment, you’d think it would have said so. It does not seem too much to ask that a constitutional amendment not be read to weaken an older part of the Constitution unless it does so explicitly.

Indeed. If the Fourteenth Amendment scaled back the First Amendment, you’d also expect the people who drafted it to have said so. Instead, the guy who wrote the Privileges or Immunities Clause, John Bingham, explicitly argued that its purpose was to protect and apply those rights that are “chiefly defined in the first eight amendments to the Constitution of the United States,” and the guy who sponsored and introduced the amendment in the Senate, Jacob Howard, argued that it would protect and apply

the personal rights guaranteed and secured by the first eight amendments of the Constitution; such as the freedom of speech and of the press; the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances, a right appertaining to each and all the people; the right to keep and bear arms; the right to be exempted from the quartering of soldiers in a house without the consent of the owner; the right to be exempt from unreasonable searches and seizures, and from any search or seizure except by virtue of a warrant issued upon a formal oath or affidavit; the right of an accused person to be informed of the nature of the accusation against him, and his right to be tried by an impartial jury of the vicinage; and also the right to be secure against excessive bail and against cruel and unusual punishments.

Oddly enough, neither of them talked about limitations.


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