During the late 19th century, the Supreme Court was faced with the task of interpreting a Constitution that had been altered by the addition of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments during the early Reconstruction era. These amendments had the potential to dramatically reconfigure the entire structure of American constitutional jurisprudence. While scholarly assessments of the Court’s performance during this period have varied widely, most see the Republican ideology of the early Reconstruction era as the benchmark against which the performance of the Court should be measured. This book takes a different view. Focusing on the idea that the Reconstruction amendments are in fact law, the book seeks to measure the work of the late nineteenth-century Court against the principles of distinctively legal analysis rather than Republican ideology. Maltz begins with a detailed analysis of the use of Fourteenth Amendment concepts in the antebellum era. He follows with an examination of the drafting process itself and then explores the ways in which the caselaw of the late nineteenth century departed from these established meanings.
“[A] meticulous and insightful study of a vast number of cases throughout the ninteeth century.” — Xi Wang, American Historical Review, April 2005