Constitution Day Lecture
Completing the Constitution: The 14th Amendment

Michael Zuckert in We the People, Tang Teaching Museum, September 24, 2013

Constitution Day Lecture
Completing the Constitution: The 14th Amendment

Skidmore celebrates Constitution Day 2012 with a lecture by Notre Dame scholar Michael Zuckert in the exhibition We the People. Zuckert, the Nancy R. Dreux Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, will give a talk titled “Completing the Constitution: The 14th Amendment.”

Ratified in 1868, the 14th Amendment defines national citizenship, due process, and equal protection aspects of the constitution. The amendment is sometimes held to have revolutionized the Constitution, in effect replacing the traditional federal system with a more national system. It is also argued that the amendment essentially reaffirmed the pre-war Constitution. 

The truth appears to lie with neither side: the drafters of the amendment attempted to “complete the Constitution, ” neither to reform it radically, nor to reaffirm it simply. In doing so, they unwittingly followed in the tracks of the original “father of the Constitution,” James Madison, who believed the original Constitution to be defective in important ways. Proper attention to the context and the structure of the text of the amendment reveals just how the amendment was to “complete the Constitution."

Zuckert is a specialist in the fields of political theory and Constitutional studies. He has published extensively on a variety of topics, including George Orwell, Plato, Shakespeare, and contemporary liberal theory. He is currently finishing a book called Completing the Constitution: The Post-Civil War Amendments and is co-writing another book on Machiavelli and Shakespeare. In addition, he has been commissioned to write the volume on John Rawls for a series on 20th-century political philosophy. He co-authored and co-produced public radio series Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson: A Nine-Part Drama for the Radio. He also was senior scholar for Liberty! (1997), a six hour public television series on the American Revolution, and served as senior advisor on the PBS series Benjamin Franklin (2002) and Alexander Hamilton (2007). He is currently head of the new Tocqueville Center for the Study of Religion in American Public Life at Notre Dame.

 Zuckert has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson Center, Earhart Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

The lecture is sponsored by Skidmore’s Department of Government.

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