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The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction Paperback – April 1, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0300082777 ISBN-10: 0300082770

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300082770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300082777
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

"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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The author (law, Yale Univ.) reminds us of the impact, flexibility, and timeliness of the Bill of Rights, the constitution within the Constitution that guarantees personal rights and shields individual freedoms from authoritarian encroachment. Amar's historical analysis enables the reader to appreciate the countermajoritarian nature of the document over time. The author's hypothesis seems to be that the Bill of Rights stands as an eternal bulwark against governmental oppression, especially the tyranny of the legislative majority. In this context, the demands of the Anti-Federalists at the 1787 Constitutional Convention for the security of individual rights and the protection of state governments dovetail with the post-Civil War legislation of the Reconstruction Congress intended to stamp out antebellum laws and discriminatory Black Codes. Amar goes to great pains to show how the 14th Amendment forced the states to apply fairly and evenly the freedoms and protections they had so ardently demanded during the post-Revolutionary era. He places legal milestones in an understandable perspective, thus making the reading accessible to a general academic audience.APhillip Young Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Lib., New York
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I enjoyed that one enormously and had the same reaction here.
The great strength of Amar's book is his effort to distinguish between modern interpretations and original intent.
R. Setliff
This is definitely a must read for anyone seriously interested in American history.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Jorje Chica on August 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Professor Amar has written an excellent analysis of the "original" understanding of the Bill of Rights and how that understanding was modified by the Civil War and the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment.
My only criticisms are the following:
(1) Amar relies heavily on "legislative history," especially statements made by members of Congress and Senators during legislative debates. He does not, however, attempt to deal with the scholarly debate over the relevance and weight to be attached to such "evidence." As many have argued persuasively (especially Justice Scalia), how can we ever determine what the "intent" of a body as large as Congress is? And do the statements of a few legislators accurately reflect the views of their colleagues, especially when most speeches in Congress are made to almost empty chambers? And what about the more disturbing fact that many such "speeches" are actually prepared written statements inserted into the Congressional Record?
(2) Amar's tone, especially in the endnotes (I would have preferred the law-review style of footnotes), is less than civil when it comes to other scholars. His vitriol directed at the likes of Professors Fairman and Berger is astounding. Likewise, his comments on the quality of analysis and supporting evidence in other books and law review articles borders on plain meanness. This type of jousting is all too common in law review articles, especially the battles hidden in footnotes. I find this behavior uncalled for. Scholars can point out weaknesses in other people's work without (effectively) calling them idiots.
With these reservations in mind, I highly recommend this book to any serious student of the Constitution, or of American history in general.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Brandon L. Bigelow on January 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Professor Amar's book is absolutely essential to a complete understanding of the history and future of the notion of substantive due process. Although he ostensibly writes about "The Bill of Rights," Professor Amar's focus is more correctly understood as what changes the Fourteenth Amendment and Reconstruction wrought -- or should have wrought -- in our understanding of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Professor Amar's "refined incorporation" is perhaps the most coherent explanation yet, while his history of the drafting and ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment is the most compelling argument for a limited judicial role in defining fundamental liberties. Easily accessible for practitioner and layperson alike, this book opens the door to a broader debate about the proper role of the judiciary in protecting these liberties.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By E. Kunstler on June 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The The Bill of Rights by Akhil Reed Amar takes an original look at the Ten Amendments to the United States Constitution that became known as the Bill of Rights. Amar, a professor at Yale University Law School, is one of the most respected constitutional scholars in the country.

His study of the famed document brings him to conclusions that have previously been ignored or unheard of. The main thesis, that the Amendments were originally designed to protect the majority, rather than the rights of individuals and minorities, is not a common view, but he has substantial evidence and research to support this conclusion.

A main focus in the book is the difference in the Bill of Rights before and after the era of Reconstruction and the addition of the Fourteenth Amendment. The role of Anti-federalism, which is a main contributor to the first Ten Amendments, is explained and elaborated on, as is Federalism and James Madison's role in the shaping of the Constitution and its Amendments.

Amar takes a clear stance on two issues, that the Amendments should be studied as a whole document and the great effect the Fourteenth Amendment had on the Bill of Rights. The book itself is split into two parts, one details the creation and history of the Bill of Rights, while the other details it after Reconstruction, the incorporation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and its change to having a role of protection of individuals and minorities.

Understanding the Bill of Rights and its role in our country today is of great value and Amar's The Bill of Rights appears to provide an accurate and informative guide.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
While neither an academic nor lawyer, I write as a serious student of American law and our constiutional and political history. I came to this book after reading four seminal articles on majority rule popular sovereignty and amendment of the Constitution outside of Article V by Professor Amar. These articles appeared in law journals between 1988 and 1994. From these I was aware of Professor Amar as a profound and meticulous constitutional law scholar. What my reading of the Bill of Rights Creation and Reconstruction brought to the horizon of my awareness is first that there is not one but two Bill of Rights within our Bill of Rights that of the founding period and that born our of the Civil War period. The former is the Bill of Rights focused on our powers (rights) as public citizens and/or as sovereign democrats and/or collectively speaking as political Ruler as the source of all political power and representative government. The latter is the Bill of Rights focused on our rights (powers) as private citizens and/or as mendicant democrats and/or collectively speaking as the political Subjects...and called to obey the law of the land. Seeing this for the first time and explained so trenchantly and convincingly by Professor Amar, I will no longer be able to see the Bill of Rights in any other than this doubled-barreled perspective. As a bonus, Professor Amar brings to awareness the realization we, in the aftermath of the civil rights development triggered by the Civil War Reconstruction amendments, have lost touch with the Bill of Rights of the founding generation. This benchmark study underscores, correspondingly, the task of our times to bring both the Bill of Rights of our creation and our reconstruction into a mutually enhancing relationship.Read more ›
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