Mon. Dec 9th, 2019

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

Which Amendment from the Bill of Rights is Worthy of a Paper?

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bill of rights

Which Amendment from the Bill of Rights is Worthy of a Paper?

I am about to start a research paper for my United States Constitutional History class, regarding the Bill of Rights. I have the following assignment and would love to have input from you guys.

Pick a clause of the original Constitution or Bill of Rights. Trace the meaning and application of that clause.

  • First, why did the Framers insert it in the Constitution?
  • What was their understanding of it? How has the Court interpreted it?
  • Be certain to include instances of changing historical circumstances–things that the Framers could not have predicted–that have influenced the Court’s interpretation. You should not only note how the Court has interpreted the Clause and its application of Constitutional doctrine, but also the methods the Court used.

While I know a plethora of information can be found on each of the possible clauses and Amendments, I’d love to write about something that might not be so well-known. No doubt all the U.S. Constitution’s clauses and Bill of Rights are interesting, but is there a certain one that is really worth digging into? If anyone has any input or direction, I’d love to hear it.

18 thoughts on “Which Amendment from the Bill of Rights is Worthy of a Paper?

      1. So far all the comments have been about the Bill of Rights, or other amendments. Don’t overlook the fact that the question asks about the original Constitution as well as the Bill of Rights.
        I ‘d say there are many many topics to be found in the orignial document, including the understanding that Hamilton sets forth in the Federalist Paper that a Bill of Rights was not only unnecessary but that it was positively dangerous. “For why declare that things shall not be done (by Congress) which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given (to Congress) by which restrictions may be imposed?” Federalist #84

    1. Sorry Bill… Why that would definitely by MY first choice, the list to choose from is the Bill of Rights, so only the first 10 Amendments. 🙁

      1. thanks for pointing that out, I suppose I would then be interested in the “separation of church and state” and if it derives from a letter from Jefferson or not.

        good luck.

  1. I think it’d be interesting to look at the fifth amendment since it’s invoked in court at times and many people don’t even know what it entails.

  2. One possibility would be researching the ever changing standard of the 8th Amendment prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment”. There is a plethora of cases and the standard has changed so much from the time the Amendment was written until today.

  3. I agree with the 1st Amendment but would angle it towards a ‘Freedom from Religion’ point of view and how the establishment of the State Church is to establish another unaccountable taxing authority.

  4. How about looking at the State Constitutions of that time because up to the 1930s, the State of Georgia did not recognize the Federal Bill of Rights (the first 10 Amendments) because the State of Georgia’s Rights of Citizens were already enforce in their Constitution and the Constitution started with them, not like the Federal Constitution which has the Bill of Rights at the end. It would be interesting to see how many other States did the same thing and for how long.

  5. Constitutional History is great. I took two Constitutional Law classes during my undergrad and it was a blast. As far as a specific Amendment or topic within the Constitution, check into the Commerce clause or the “necessary and proper clause.” The Court has a wide range of cases especially relating to the Commerce clause. Article I, Section 10 deals with the obligation of contracts. Not a lot on that but it was an important issue for the early Court. Cases such as Fletcher v. Peck 6 Cr. (10 U.S.) 87 (1810) and Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward 4 Wheat. (17 U.S.) 518 (1819). This clause lost relevance once the 14th Amendment was ratified. As far as Amendments are concerned, I would personally look into the 5th like April said. Or the 10th Amendment, which delegates power to the States.

  6. Article VI, Clause 2: the Supremacy Clause, which essentially decrees that the Constitution, and all federal statutes and treaties, are “the supreme law of the land.” This laid the foundation for judicial review, led to debates over the constitutionality of nullification and secession, as well as a whole host of Supreme Court decisions dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

    Not as black and white as it sounds, however. At various points the clause has been used to enforce the terms of US treaties, defeat state attempts to defy or destroy federal institutions, and enforce the terms of both the Fugitive Slave Act and Brown v. Board of Education.

    Heady stuff.

  7. So, which did you choose? I’m too late to the party here, but I would have gone for the 2nd Amendment myself. What exactly was intended by “militia”? What does “well-regulated’ mean?

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