Due Process Clause and Incorporation: Overview of Doctrine and Practice
Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
One of the amendments that the Senate refused to accept—declared by Madison to be “the most valuable of the whole list” 1 —read: “The equal rights of conscience, the freedom of speech or of the press, and the right of trial by jury in criminal cases shall not be infringed by any State.” 2 In spite of this rejection, the contention that the Bill of Rights—or at least the first eight amendments—was applicable to the states was repeatedly pressed upon the Supreme Court. By a long series of decisions, beginning with the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall in Barron v. Baltimore,3 the argument was consistently rejected. Nevertheless, the enduring vitality of natural law concepts encouraged renewed appeals for judicial protection through application of the Bill of Rights.4
- 1 Annals of Congress 755 (August 17, 1789).
- 32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 243 (1833). See also Livingston's Lessee v. Moore, 32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 469 (1833); Permoli v. Municipality No. 1, 44 U.S. (3 How.) 589, 609 (1845); Fox v. Ohio, 46 U.S. (5 How.) 410 (1847); Smith v. Maryland, 59 U.S. (18 How.) 71 (1855); Withers v. Buckley, 61 U.S. (20 How.) 84 (1858); Pervear v. Massachusetts, 72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 475 (1867); Twitchell v. Commonwealth, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 321 (1869).
- Thus, Justice Miller for the Court in Loan Ass'n v. Topeka, 87 U.S. (20 Wall.) 655, 662, 663 (1875): “It must be conceded that there are . . . rights in every free government beyond the control of the State . . . There are limitations on [governmental] power which grow out of the essential nature of all free governments. Implied reservations of individual rights, without which the social compact could not exist, and which are respected by all governments entitled to the name.”
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