Episode 261: Creating the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution doesn’t always make headlines, but it’s an amendment that undergirds foundational rights. It’s also an amendment that can show us a lot about the intertwined nature between history and American law.

In this third episode of our 4th Doing History series, we explore the early American origins of the Fourth Amendment with Thomas Clancy, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Mississippi School of Law and an expert on the Fourth Amendment.

About the Series

Law is all around us. The “Doing History: Understanding the Fourth Amendment” series uses the Bill of Rights and the Fourth Amendment as case studies to examine where our rights come from and how they developed out of early American knowledge and experiences. It also uses the history of the Bill of Rights and the Fourth Amendment to explore the history of law as a field of study and how this field of study differs from other historical subjects and how historians and lawyers use and view the history of the law differently.

The Doing History series explores early American history and how historians work. It is part of Ben Franklin’s World, which is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Be sure you check out Doing History season 1, Doing History: How Historians Work; Doing History season 2, Doing History: To the Revolution!; And, Doing History season 3, Doing History: Biography.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Episode Summary

Our Doing History series about understanding the Fourth Amendment continues with an exploration of the history of the Fourth Amendment. Our guide for this exploration is Thomas Clancy, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Mississippi School of Law and an expert on the Fourth Amendment.

During our investigation of the Fourth Amendment’s origins, Tom reveals what the Fourth Amendment is and what it means; How the Fourth Amendment grew out of early American experiences with English law and the American Revolution; And how early Americans understood the Fourth Amendment and how their understanding of the amendment impacts our modern-day use and interpretations of it.

What You’ll Discover

  • The Fourth Amendment and its meaning
  • Legal definitions of “search” and “seizure”
  • English roots of the Fourth Amendment
  • The Paxton Case (1761)
  • Writs of Assistance
  • James Otis Jr. and his model for search and seizure
  • The warrant clause of the Fourth Amendment
  • John Adams’ influence on the Fourth Amendment
  • English practices and understandings of search and seizure
  • John Wilkes and North Briton No. 45 (1764)
  • Entick v. Carrington (1765)
  • James Madison’s drafting of the Fourth Amendment
  • Congress and the Fourth Amendment
  • The importance of history in Fourth Amendment interpretation


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