Jon C. Blue


Akhil Amar has written a stunning book about what he calls "the high temple of our constitutional order"-the Bill of Rights. The temple metaphor is revealing, for it is evident throughout his book that Professor Amar views the Constitution as a sanctified structure, the use of which is to be determined by a holistic study of the original blueprints and the surviving comments of the long-dead architects. This characterization is complicated but not fundamentally changed by the fact that Amar's story is, as the subtitle of the book proclaims, one of "creation and reconstruction." The creation is that of the original Bill of Rights, proposed in 1789 and ratified in 1791. The reconstruction is that wrought by the Fourteenth Amendment, proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868. The story pretty much stops there. Although Amar criticizes what he terms "curiously selective ancestor worship," it turns out that he is merely arguing for a somewhat more inclusive ancestor worship--John Bingham as well as James Madison, and Frederick Douglass as well as Patrick Henry. Worthy ancestors all, but what about their descendants?