More information is available here.
Diminishing the Bill of Rights examines the backstory and context of this decision as a turning point in the development of our current conception of individual rights. Since the colonial period, Americans had viewed their rights as springing from multiple sources, including the common law, natural right, and English legal tradition. Despite this rich heritage and a prohibition grounded in the Magna Carta against uncompensated state takings of property, the Court ruled against Barron’s claim. The Bill of Rights, Chief Justice John Marshall declared in his opinion for the majority, restrained only the federal government, not the states. The Fifth Amendment, accordingly, did not apply to Maryland or any of the cities it chartered.
In explaining how the Court came to reject a multisourced view of human liberties—a position seemingly inconsistent with its previous decisions—William Davenport Mercer helps explain why we now envision the Constitution as essential to guaranteeing our rights. Marshall’s view of rights in Barron, Mercer argues, helped him navigate the Court through the precarious political currents of the time. While the chief justice may have effected a shrewd political maneuver, the decision helped hasten a reconceptualization of rights as located in documents. Its legacy, as Mercer’s work makes clear, is among the Jacksonian era’s significant democratic reforms and marks the emergence of a distinctly American constitutionalism.
Monday, June 26, 2017
Mercer on "Barron v. Baltimore and the Foundations of American Liberty"
New from the University of Oklahoma Press: Diminishing the Bill of Rights: Barron v. Baltimore and the Foundations of American Liberty, by William Davenport Mercer (University of Tennessee, Knoxville). A description from the Press: