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Text & History Narrative Series

Every provision of the Constitution has a narrative – a story of its enactment; the men and women who pushed for constitutional change; the events and cases that motivated the provision’s framers and ratifiers; and the debates – both in the courts and political branches – about its meaning. Through this series, CAC tells the most important and compelling stories in the American canon: our Constitution’s text, its creation, and the efforts over the past 220 years to improve the document. These narratives not only distill the best legal and historical scholarship and bring alive forgotten Americans, they also help us better understand our Constitution and inform how modern debates about the Constitution should be resolved.

CAC’s attorneys have also authored books and reports examining important constitutional topics including judicial ethics, federalism and the Takings Clause.

The Keystone of the Arch: The Text and History of Article III and the Constitution's Promise of Access to Courts

When the Constitution was framed, the promise of access to the federal courts was at the heart of a new system of government accountable to the people. The federal judiciary, with the Supreme Court at its head, would be the “keystone of the arch,” establishing a binding rule of law for the nation. Today, the Framers’ constitutional vision is in shambles. In filling a vacancy on the Court, left by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, progressives have a chance to restore basic constitutional first principles that give Americans their day in court to redress legal wrongs and prevent abuse of power by the government. The story laid out in the pages that follow shows why this is what the Constitution’s text and history requires.

Laying Claim to the Constitution: The Promise of New Textualism

Living constitutionalism is largely dead. So, too, is old-style originalism. Instead, there is increasing convergence in the legal academy around what might be called “new textualism.” The core principle of new textualism is that constitutional interpretation must start with a determination, based on evidence from the text, structure, and enactment history, of what the language in the Constitution actually means.

Perfecting the Declaration: The Text and History of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment

On November 16, 2011, CAC released Perfecting the Declaration: The Text and History of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the fourth volume in CAC’s Text and History Narrative Series. This narrative tells the story of how the American people, after the Civil War, re-wrote the Constitution to guarantee equality to all persons, bringing the Constitution back in line with the principle of equality laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

A Capitalist Joker: Corporations, Corporate Personhood, and the Constitution.

On March 10, 2010, CAC released the third narrative in its Text and History Narrative Series. Entitled A Capitalist Joker: The Strange Origins, Disturbing Past and Uncertain Future of Corporate Personhood in American Law, the narrative builds on the scholarly research discussed in CAC’s amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC. The narrative examines a key issue that the Court addressed in the case: whether corporations have the same rights as individuals, particularly when it comes to influencing electoral politics.

The Shield of National Protection: The Text & History of Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment

In June 2009, CAC released The Shield of National Protection: The Text and History of Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, the second in CAC’s Text and History Narrative Series and the follow-up to The Gem of the Constitution, our report on the Privileges or Immunities Clause.

The Gem of the Constitution

In December 2008, CAC released the first narrative in its Text and History Narrative Series. This narrative tells the sad story of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Fourteenth Amendment and the critical constitutional language that guarantees the fundamental rights of all Americans. Instead, the Supreme Court wrote it out of the Constitution in 1873 and it has lain dormant ever since. The report argues for a reconsideration of the Clause and its critical role of protecting fundamental rights and liberties.