1. "Webs of Significance," Clifford Geertz
  2. Federal vs. State Power in Antebellum America
  3. Was early Supreme Court Justice John Marshall an originalist?
  4. Locke: “where there is no law, there is no freedom”
  5. Jürgen Habermas on the public sphere, the state, and the private sphere

“Women and Pockets” (1885)

“The straights to which helpless woman has been subjected by the absence of pockets in her gowns have wrung from her many complaints that have availed her nothing.”


Cows vs. railroads: the near-death experience of President Grant

A rather incredible 1869 train accident involved President Grant, his family, and the Secretary of the Treasury — and a cow.

New-Fashioned Quarantine (from 1916)

One traditional method Hill discusses is quarantine — but Hill gives it a rational spin, characteristic of early twentieth century optimism and trust in science and expertise.


Franz Neumann on the importance of history to freedom

Freedom, argues Franz Neumann, requires several kinds of knowledge (historical, for example), not simply the absence of state (or private) coercion — though that too is a necessary and critical element.

Justice Scalia on the Constitution, privacy, and criminality

Justice Scalia once noted that “the Constitution sometimes
insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all.”

Technology & Science Studies

Victorian domestic specialization and gender roles

As the Victorian version of separate spheres solidified in the mid-nineteenth century, the “idea of wifely sainthood gained ever more credence as housewives found themselves increasingly isolated from the male-operated world.”

The “third-party problem”: one reason telegrams were not constitutionally protected

Unlike postal mail or, later, the telephone, telegrams never received constitutional protection. Yet they were the quintessential nineteenth-century technology of communication, used extensively for business, government, and personal communication, much of which both senders and receivers would have wished to keep to themselves.

The telegraph and the domestic home

“American District Telegraph Company was originally conceptualized as a business service, but it quickly began to sell itself as a service for the home as well.”

Locke: “where there is no law, there is no freedom”

In 1689, John Locke wrote that “the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”

Thoughts on Meyer v. Nebraska and its connection to Griswold v. Connecticut

In the 1923 case of Meyer v. Nebraska, which grew out of the anti-German sentiment of World War I, the Supreme Court “upheld the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children by striking down … a state statute prohibiting the teaching of any modern language other than English in any public or private grammar school.” How does this relate to Griswold v. Connecticut, which created a “right to privacy” (at least in terms of marital relations)?

Griswold v. Connecticut, privacy, and the home

Griswold v. Connecticut is one of the foundational cases of a constitutional “right to privacy” in the United States — though, as many have pointed out, the word “privacy” does not appear in the text of the Constitution itself. The precedent in the majority opinion by Justice Douglas is nonetheless strong and deeply rooted in tradition.

The Supreme Court and James Q. Whitman’s “The Two Western Cultures of Privacy: Dignity Versus Liberty”

James Q. Whitmore reveals an interesting contrast: whereas American law and rhetoric is strongest when privacy is approached as a protection against state interference, privacy protections in Germany and France are at their peak when the dignity of the individual is at stake. Justice Kennedy, interestingly, emphasizes this more European approach in a number of his Supreme Court decisions.

Thoughts on the Power and the Limits of Presidential Pardons

Was President Trump right when he tweeted that “all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon“? It is true that the power of the President of the United States to issue pardons is indeed one of the president’s most powerful Article II powers — but, it is also, despite the implication of President Trump’s tweet, limited.

Publishing leaked materials: the Pentagon Papers case

Within a month of taking office, President Donald Trump announced his desire to go after “leakers” who have helped embroil his administration in controversy. He also declared many traditional news outlets to be “enem[ies] of the American People!” What does this mean for those who publish such material?

Promoting involuntary sterilization: early hints of problems in the 1930s

A 1930s article published in The Journal of Heredity, “Beginnings of Sterilization in America,” is notable for the way it portrayed sterilization, particularly when it is compared to an earlier account of the same interview with Dr. Sharp that formed the basis of the article and that has been preserved in the archives of California’s Human Betterment Foundation.