A Radical Original Meaning
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
A major contribution to our understanding of the “Second Founding” that remade the United States after the Civil War, The Original Meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment: Its Letter and Spirit advances the bold claim that fidelity to the Constitution requires nothing less than a radical shift in how we comprehend Sections 1 and 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. The problem is not, authors Randy E. Barnett and Evan D. Bernick explain, that the current approach to the Fourteenth Amendment has led to disaster, for by their own account the United States in 2021 is a cynosure (albeit an imperfect one) of freedom and opportunity. Rather, what drove the authors to write this book is their conviction that, as they put it, most of what now “comprises the conventional wisdom about the meaning of the most salient clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment is wrong.” What is more, to persist in these errors is to risk undermining the legitimacy—both moral and sociological—of our constitutional order.