The Law of the Land

Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 6:30 - 8:30pm

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Photo of Akhil Reed Amar by Harold Shapiro

Photo of Akhil Reed Amar by Harold Shapiro

Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale University, discusses his new book, Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic in a free, public lecture.

In the book, Amar tells the story of the American constitutional system through the lens of geography. "Basic topographic features matter for key issues of constitutional law," writes Amar. "The wideness of the Atlantic, the flatness of the Midwest, and the centrality of the Mississippi were all important factors influencing the Founders' and Lincoln’s views of the secession question," he notes. Zeroing in on twelve individual states – Illinois, Alabama, New York, California, Kansas, Iowa, Florida, Ohio, Texas, Wyoming, Massachusetts, and New Jersey – Amar focuses each chapter on a particular person, case, idea, or event associated with that specific state (or the broader region of which that state is a part) to show geography’s impact on constitutional interpretation.

Drawing on legal, political, and historical material from every era of our nation’s history, The Law of the Lands' "grand tour" begins with profiles of four of the most influential constitutional decision-makers in American history: Abraham Lincoln (whose "Right Makes Might" speech was delivered in The Great Hall), Hugo Black, Robert Jackson, and Anthony Kennedy. As Amar shows how their respective home states – Illinois, Alabama, New York, and California – shaped their motives, thoughts, and decisions, he also touches on the broader implications for our national constitutional system.

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Located in The Great Hall, in the Foundation Building, 7 East 7th Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.