Document Type


Publication Title

Harvard Journal on Legislation



Publication Date



Congressional Power, Civil War, Congress, Supreme Court, Plenary Power, Constitutional Rights, Civil Rights Act of 1866, Rehnquist Court


Professor Robert Kaczorowski argues for an expansive originalist interpretation of Congressional power under the Fourteenth Amendment. Before the Civil War Congress actually exercised, and the Supreme Court repeatedly upheld plenary Congressional power to enforce the constitutional rights of slaveholders. After the Civil War, the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment copied the antebellum statutes and exercised plenary power to enforce the constitutional rights of all American citizens when they enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and then incorporated the Act into the Fourteenth Amendment. The framers of the Fourteenth Amendment thereby exercised the plenary power the Rehnquist Court claims the framers intended to exclude from Congress. The framers also adopted the remedies to redress violations of substantive constitutional rights the Court says the framers intended to reserve exclusively to the states. The Rehnquist Court's Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence, contradicted by this history, is thus ripe for reevaluation.