A leading scholar of law delivers an incisive and brilliant new account of the Bill of Rights and explodes conventional wisdom about our most basic charter of liberty. Akhil Reed Amar not only illuminates the text, structure, and history of the 1789 Bill but also argues that its present character owes more to antislavery activists of the Reconstruction era than to the Founding Fathers who created the Bill.
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.--Phillip Young Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Lib., New York