The Bill of Rights in Historical Perspective

March 13-15, 2015


Application deadline: January 23, 2015
Early decision: January 9, 2015

During the ratification debates, many Antifederalists criticized the Constitution because it lacked a bill of rights.  James Madison and other Federalists responded that, because the Constitution already restricted the authority of the national government through its enumerated powers, a bill of rights was not needed to further protect rights.  This seminar will start by discussing what both sides in the debate agreed on:  natural rights need certain protections from government power.  Then it will explore how the Bill of Rights was meant to provide additional protections.  Next, it will consider how certain developments—such as the "incorporation doctrine" following adoption of the 14th Amendment and competing theories of constitutional interpretation—have affected the Bill of Rights over time.  Finally, the seminar will examine specific provisions of the Bill of Rights, looking at their historic origins and tracing their meanings throughout American history.

Seminar Scholars

Susan M. Leeson was a justice on the Oregon Supreme Court and a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals. Before her judicial service, Leeson taught political science at Willamette University (political theory and public law) and dispute resolution, legal history, and jurisprudence at the College of Law.  She also has been a Judicial Fellow at the United States Supreme Court and a law clerk in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Leeson has co-authored texts on constitutional law and dispute resolution, and published articles on law and political theory.  Currently, she is the staff mediator for the United States District Court for the District of Oregon.  She speaks regularly at teacher institutes on constitutional history and contemporary issues.   Leeson’s  Ph.D. (Government) is from the Claremont Graduate School and her J.D. is from Willamette College of Law.


Dr. Lynn Uzzell received her B.A. in speech communications at Black Hills State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in politics at the University of Dallas.  She has taught extensively on political philosophy, rhetoric, the United States Constitution, and American political thought at Baylor University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Richmond.  She specializes in the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  She is currently the Scholar in Residence at the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution and is acting as Project Coordinator for “James Madison: Lessons in Leadership and Life,” a 3-year collaborative project partnering the Center for the Constitution, the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.  She is also currently adjunct faculty at James Madison University and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Fox Program at the University of Pennsylvania.