Incorporation, Total Incorporation, and Nothing But Incorporation?

44 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2015 Last revised: 30 Jan 2016

See all articles by Christopher R. Green

Christopher R. Green

University of Mississippi - School of Law

Date Written: February 19, 2015


Kurt Lash’s The Fourteenth Amendment and the Privileges and Immunities of American Citizenship (2014) defends the view that the Fourteenth Amendment’s “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” cover only rights enumerated elsewhere in the Constitution. My own book, however, Equal Citizenship, Civil Rights, and the Constitution: The Original Sense of the Privileges or Immunities Clause (2015), reads the Clause to broadly guarantee equality among similarly-situated citizens of the United States. Incorporation of an enumerated right into the Fourteenth Amendment requires, I say, national consensus such that an outlier state’s invasion of the right would produce inequality among citizens of the United States. Lash and I agree about a great deal, but this Essay provides a focused explanation of the clash between our two books.

Searchable electronic databases have produced an amazing variety of new evidence and argument related to the Fourteenth Amendment’s original meaning and the enumerated-right controversy. Lash’s book shows vividly that there is an enormous amount that Black, Frankfurter, Fairman and Crosskey failed to uncover. Here, I raise six problems for Lash’s enumerated-rights-only view: (a) the gulf between the constitutional needs of the Founding and Reconstruction, (b) the inherent unabridgeability of federally-enumerated rights through state action, (c) textual and historical complications for sharply distinguishing Article IV from the Fourteenth Amendment, (d) equality-focused interpretations of the Louisiana Cession language and of the Privileges or Immunities Clause, explaining the Clause in terms of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, (e) 1866 disputes over voting rights and indefiniteness, incomprehensible on the enumerated-rights-only view, and (f) subsequent-interpretation evidence, especially the use of the enumerated-rights-only view against the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

Keywords: Fourteenth Amendment, Incorporation, Kurt Lash, Enumerated Rights, Privileges or Immunities Clause, John Bingham, Jacob Howard, Schuyler Colfax, Lyman Trumbull, James Wilson

Suggested Citation

Green, Christopher R., Incorporation, Total Incorporation, and Nothing But Incorporation? (February 19, 2015). 24 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 93 (2015) , Available at SSRN: or

Christopher R. Green (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677
United States

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