On September 16th from 3-4 p.m. EDT, University of Richmond law professor Kurt Lash will present the Law Library of Congress annual Constitution Day lecture, which is titled, “The Transformation of the Bill of Rights: Incorporation Doctrine and the Fourteenth Amendment.” This lecture will be presented as a webinar.
Please click here to register.
Constitution Day, officially known as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” is a federal commemoration observed each year to mark the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, and to “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”
Professor Lash’s lecture will explore the history of the Bill of Rights and explain how those rights came to be protected against state abridgment by the 14th Amendment. The first 10 amendments to the American Constitution, the Bill of Rights, originally bound only the federal government and not the states. Professor Lash will discuss that rather than representing the nature of American freedom, the original Bill of Rights represented the nature of American federalism—the idea that liberty is best preserved by leaving subjects like speech, press, and religion under the control of the people in the several states. Sometime between the Founding and the Civil War, however, Americans came to view the Bill of Rights as representing something far greater than simply the limited authority of the national government. Abolitionists embraced the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment as an inviolable declaration of natural law and the right of every person not to be enslaved. Americans in the North and South increasingly looked to the Bill of Rights as declaring the fundamental privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States. By the time of the Civil War, Americans were ready to transform the original federalist Bill of Rights into a charter of individual liberty binding upon both state and federal officials. The people accomplished this transformation when they ratified the 14th Amendment, which announced that henceforth “no state shall make or enforce any law abridging the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”
Professor Kurt Lash teaches and writes about constitutional law. He holds the E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Richmond School of Law. Founder and director of the Richmond Program on the American Constitution, Professor Lash has published widely on the subjects of constitutional history, theory, and law, including The Fourteenth Amendment and the Privileges or Immunities of American Citizenship (Cambridge University Press, 2014), The Lost History of the Ninth Amendment (Oxford University Press, 2009), and The American First Amendment in the Twenty-first Century: Cases and Materials (with William W. Van Alstyne) (5th ed., Foundation Press). He has just published a two-volume collection of original documents relating to the framing and ratification of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Titled The Reconstruction Amendments: Essential Documents, the work was published by University of Chicago Press in spring 2021. An elected member of the American Law Institute, Professor Lash also serves on the advisory committee for the Reconstruction Amendments exhibit at the National Constitution Center. Professor Lash’s work has appeared in numerous legal journals, including the Stanford Law Journal, Georgetown Law Journal, Virginia Law Review, and Notre Dame Law Review. He has been a visiting professor at Northwestern University School of Law and is the former director of the University of Illinois College of Law Program in Constitutional Theory, History, and Law.
Please register for this event by clicking here.