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Profs and Pints DC presents: “What the Bill of Rights Got Wrong,” with Marvin Overby, professor of political science and director of Penn State’s School of Public Affairs.
Most Americans are familiar with the Bill of Rights, but few understand the complicated and fascinating history of those amendments to the U.S. Constitution or how they were worded in a way that initially caused them to have little impact on the lives of most citizens.
Come to D.C.’s Hill Center to hear Professor Marvin Overby, a noted scholar of American politics, give the essential talk for those seeking to understand our Constitution and the freedoms and protections it affords: a look at the Bill of Rights, how they were drafted and ratified, and how they’ve evolved.
You’ll learn just how contentious the development of the Bill of Rights was. Antifederalists—popular politicians opposed to the establishment of a strong central government—had insisted that such rights be incorporated into the Constitution itself. James Madison initially regarded the Constitution’s language spelling out the limits of government power as protection enough, but eventually came around and played a key role in drafting the list of fundamental rights that would be amended to that document. Madison called for language limiting states’ authority to interfere with matters of conscience, that that proposal never saw the light of day.
As initially ratified by the states, the Bill of Rights was interpreted as applying only to the federal government, not the states themselves, rendering them fairly unimportant in the early Republic. It was only after the Civil War that our country’s understanding of federalism changed and the Supreme Court slowly and selectively began applying Bill of Rights to the states, vastly increasing their importance.
Professor Overby will discuss the arguments for and against highlighting certain rights, the importance of the 14th Amendment, different conceptions of due process, and the debates related to the Bill of Rights that continue to divide Americans. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: From a 1940 Howard Chandler Christy painting of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.