Cover image for Origins of the Bill of Rights
Origins of the Bill of Rights
Levy, Leonard W. (Leonard Williams), 1923-2006.
Publication Information:
New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 306 pages ; 22 cm.
Format :


Call Number
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KF4749 .L488 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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A history of the origins of the Bill of Rights. It offers a panoramic view of the liberties secured by the first ten amendments to the Constitution - with an analysis of the background of the Bill of Rights meaning of each provision of the amendments.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

When Americans began drafting a Bill of Rights suitable for their new republic, they were actually following longstanding Anglo-American tradition. In a well-researched, though hardly pathbreaking, history, Levy (Blasphemy, etc.), professor emeritus at the Claremont Graduate School, devotes chapters to important protections: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, habeas corpus, prohibitions on bills of attainder, etc. With each topic, he delves into its sourcesÄEnglish common law, Enlightenment philosophy, colonial state constitutionsÄably characterizing the social and historical forces that influenced the evolution of each right. It's an academic approach that's useful as history even if it solves few contemporary problems. Take, for example, Levy's discussion of the right to bear arms. When ratified, he notes, the Second Amendment created an individual rather than a collective right. But this settles the matter only if one believes that legal and constitutional history stopped in 1789. As recent constitutional theorists (e.g., Bruce Ackerman) have noted, law, including constitutional law, evolves, effectively undergoing amendment through a gradual consensus-building process involving courts, legislatures and the public. Indeed, Levy's own keen historical account illustrates how legal concepts have changed over time. His failure to confront or even acknowledge how this dynamism is at work in contemporary debates renders this book ultimately of only academic interest. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Constitutional historian Levy, author of 36 books concerning American politics and constitutional issues (e.g., The Palladium of Justice: Origins of Trial by Jury), provides a systematic and comprehensive analysis of the origins of the Bill of Rights and other constitutional provisions that protect rights. His historical analysis frames fundamental principles of "liberty" and "rights" by interpreting each of the first nine amendments to the Constitution and demonstrating differences between 18th-century American ideals and English common-law practice. His informative arguments in this important work concern nature and the sources of the Bill of Rights within American democracy, providing understanding for both scholars and citizens. Levy's approach to these controversial values, which protect the rights of the people, will be the source of future legal and public discussion. A significant contribution to understanding the Bill of Rights; highly recommended.ÄSteven Puro, St. Louis Univ. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.