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The 14th Amendment and the Bill of Rights


Laurence Vance
Tenth Amendment Center
March 12, 2012

Did the Congress that passed the Fourteenth Amendment (June 13, 1866) or the states that ratified it (July 9, 1868) intend that the Amendment incorporate, in whole or in part, the Bill of Rights? It is a telling indictment of the incorporation doctrine that nowhere in the Fourteenth Amendment does it say anything about incorporating any part of the Bill of Rights. The wisdom exercised by Chief Justice Marshall in Barron v. The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (1833) should be followed here. In writing about the applicability of the Bill of Rights to the states, Marshall clearly explains why such was not the case:

Had the framers of these amendments intended them to be limitations on the powers of the state governments, they would have imitated the framers of the original constitution, and have expressed that intention. Had congress engaged in the extraordinary occupation of improving the constitutions of the several states, by affording the people additional protection from the exercise of power by their own governments, in matters which concerned themselves alone, they would have declared this purpose in plain and intelligible language.

It is inconceivable that if such a thing took place that such a significant doctrine as incorporation would be so veiled that it would take years before some Supreme Court judge discovered that there was such a thing.

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