The Constitution and Civil Rights

By Milton R. Konvitz | Go to book overview

Preface

THIS BOOK does not treat of political rights, such as the right to vote. Nor does it treat of civil liberties, such as those mentioned in the Bill of Rights (freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, religious freedom, the right to bear arms, the right to security against unreasonable searches and seizures, security against double-jeopardy and excessive bail, the right to trial by jury, security against self‐ incrimination, and so on). The scope of this book is defined by its title: The Constitution and Civil Rights. In its more technical, limited sense, the term civil rights, as distinguished from political rights and civil liberties, refers to the rights of persons to employment, and to accommodations in hotels, restaurants, common carriers, and other places of public accommodation and resort. The term contemplates the rights enumerated in the federal Civil Rights Act of 1875 and the various acts against discrimination found on the statute books of eighteen states.

For the reason that some of the federal civil rights acts speak of privileges and immunities, as well as rights, it is necessary to consider the constitutional meaning of the term "privileges and immunities." The book, therefore, deals with both civil rights and the privileges and immunities of citizens.

It will be seen that, as the Constitution and statutes have been construed by the Supreme Court, very narrow scope has been given to the meaning of these terms. In so far as the Constitution is concerned, the civil rights, privileges, and immunities can be counted on one hand. This will surely come as a surprise to all readers except the rare specialist. The widespread, well-nigh universal, ignorance of this subject is in part due to the fact that so very little attention has been given to it by political scientists and other scholars. How is the layman to be blamed for his ignorance when attempts have not been made to bring pertinent information to his attention ? As far as I know, this is the first time an

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