14th Amendment Analysis

Through the use of the Incorporation Doctrine, the United States Supreme Court has held that most, but not all, guarantees of the federal Bill of Rights limit state and local governments as well as the federal government through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.   States have been required to respect freedom of speech, press, and religion, and most of the other guarantees.   Whether the guarantees that are “incorporated” apply to the states just as they apply to the federal government has been the subject of judicial controversy.

Until 1866, the rule, established by the Supreme Court in 1833 in Barron v. Baltimore, was that guarantees of the federal bill of rights limited only the federal government, not state governments.   The Fourteenth Amendment made all persons born in the United States citizens and provided that no state should abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens or deny due process or equal protection to any person.   Although between 1835 and 1866, at the federal level the rights in the Bill of Rights were considered to belong to all American citizens under the Constitution, early cases provided contradictory and inconsistent decisions by the Court as to how the rights in the Bill of Rights would be applied to the states.

In the Slaughterhouse Cases (1873), the Court considered whether Louisiana could grant a monopoly on slaughtering animals.   In ruling for the State, a majority ruled that the Privileges or Immunities Clause did not protect such fundamental rights as the right to labor.   Thus, Slaughterhouse and following cases seemed to deprive the Privileges or Immunities Clause of any significant meaning.   Cases following Slaughterhouse held one after another that the guarantees of the Bill of Rights did not limit the states.   Eventually, though, the Court began to incorporate particular Bill of Rights guarantees selectively as limits on the states.   The Court held that the guarantee that private property would not be...