Publication Date

Spring 4-18-2013


Helms School of Government


Government: Pre-Law

Primary Subject Area

Law; History, United States


State sovereignty, Incorporation


Constitutional Law



My senior thesis paper will discuss the incorporation doctrine of the Bill of Rights to state governments. The incorporation doctrine has been subject to extensive debate as to the proper relationship between state and federal sovereignty. Proponents of incorporation believe that the incorporation of the Bill of Rights limits state governments from using pre-Civil War practices (such as discrimination and inhumane treatment of persons) and thus would ensure greater liberty to individuals. However, opponents believe that such a transfer of power to the federal government can lead to the demise of state sovereignty and usurpation of national power. In order to have a complete understanding of this doctrine, one must look to the nation’s history to exegete the true meanings between state and federal relationships. I will examine the ratification of the Bill of Rights, Supreme Court cases before the Civil War, the context and ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, Supreme Court cases after the Civil War, and the modern definition of incorporation today.