Podcasts | Constitutionally Speaking

Episode 34: The Fourth Amendment: Hinge of the Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights (Wikimedia Commons )

In this week’s episode, Jay and Luke take a look at the Fourth Amendment. Often hailed today as a privacy amendment — or as the reason tech companies can share your personal data — the Fourth Amendment was originally written to protect republican citizenship, up to and including the activities of a revolutionary citizenry. From Edward Coke domesticating and democratizing aristocratic privileges with the castle doctrine to John Wilkes stirring things up on the eve of the American Revolution, England provided an intellectual framework in the common law that the Framers stripped of its original justifications to suit their own purposes. Responding especially to the pre-Revolutionary experience of arbitrary and often corrupt royal officials exploiting general warrants, Madison came to the Fourth Amendment to secure the institutional protections offered up in the earlier amendments with procedural standards. Those standards, in turn, could be adjudicated by the juries outlined in the subsequent amendments. In this sense, the Fourth Amendment is the hinge of the Bill of Rights.

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