Ch. 4: The Nineteenth Century: Consolidation, Retrenchment
American Developments: From The Bill of Rights to the Abolition of Slavery
At the beginning, the author quoted Benjamin Constant's discourses, stating that moderns are satisfied as long as politics do not get in their way of life. The error of the French Revolution was that the reformers misunderstood the difference of political participation between the ancients and the moderns, and tried to compel moderns to receive the values of ancient. However, Americans did not make this mistake. The framers of the U.S. Constitution cleverly avoided the situation of federal powers dominating states. Concerning individuals, political participation rights was guaranteed, though not in an exhaustive way. The main text of the Constitution did not enumerate the rights of citizens until the Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791 with the form of ten amendments. Even in the Bill of Rights, there was an exclusive clause: Amendment IX, which ensured the rights of citizens will not be limited by the mere ten clauses.
Although the Americans did not bog down into the trouble of making a political forum, they faced another difficulty, that is, the problem of slavery. The author mentioned two court cases to illustrate the dynamics of the Americans concerning slavery. The first one was The Amistad (1841), in which was a debate on whether slaves have the rights or not to contest their clams before courts. Though Africans were treated as slaves thoroughly in this case, the court had indicated a willingness to give Africans a hearing under “eternal principle of justice.” However, in the second case, Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the court took the position of treating slaves as properties exhaustively. They appealed a message that black Africans were not merely second-class citizens, they were even not citizens of the U.S. at all. This decision had created a public anger and eventually led to the civil war. After the defeat of the Confederate States of America, which represented a defensible force, rights discourses had an expansive spreading at that time to say that all humans have their natural rights equally. But challenges never end, e.g. Marx argued that the so-called rights were merely selfishness of individuals in disguise. The debate of rights discourses continued in the 20th century.
 William A. Edmundson, An Introduction to Rights. (Cambridge, Cambridge University press, 2004), 78.