November 24, 2020

Buffalo, NY – Scholars of American constitutionalism and history enthusiasts, alike, will gain a deeper understanding of state constitutions within the federal constitutional structure in the new book Bills of Rights Before the Bill of Rights: Early State Constitutions and the American Tradition of Rights 1776 – 1790.  Co-authored by Peter J. Galie, PhD, emeritus professor of political science at Canisius College and alumni Christopher Bopst ’95 and Bethany (Siena) Kirschner ’07, the book is the first to provide a full and systematic commentary on the rights provisions found in early American state constitutions.  

This book is a documentary history of the rights found in those constitutions adopted between 1776 and 1790. Despite the rich tradition of rights at the state level, rights in America have been identified almost exclusively with the national Bill of Rights. There is no work that provides a comprehensive treatment of the early state declarations of rights. Rather, these declarations have been viewed as halting first steps towards the adoption of the national Bill of Rights in 1791. Bringing together the full text of the rights provisions from the 13 original states and Vermont, this book presents America’s first tradition of rights on its own terms and as part of this country’s heritage of rights. 

Peter Galie is the former chair of the Political Science Department at Canisius College and a leading expert on New York State’s constitutional history, including its constitutional conventions.   He is the author and co-author of many publications on the subject including Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York, (Fordham, 1996), and three dozen scholarly articles or book chapters. 

Bopst graduated from Canisius College in 1995 and went on to earn his JD from Notre Dame Law School.  He is special counsel at Wilder & Linneball LLP in Buffalo, and a member of the New York State Bar Association and Judicial Task Force on the New York State Constitution.    An avid volunteer, Bopst is president of the Desmond Law Society at Canisius, which supports the practice of law and the administration of justice through the mentorship of current and prospective Canisius students who are contemplating legal careers.  He was also editor-in-chief of the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy

Bopst has collaborated with Galie for nearly a quarter of a century, during which time they co-authored The New York State Constitution (Oxford University Press, 2012)considered the leading reference work on New York’s constitution.  Bopst and Galie also co-edited New York’s Broken Constitution: The Governance Crisis and the Path to Renewed Greatness (SUNY Press, 2016).  

Bethany (Siena) Kirschner is a graduate of the Canisius College Class of 2007 and is an associate at Woehrle Dahlberg Yao PLLC in Fredericksburg, VA.  She graduated from Canisius with a bachelor degree in political science and earned her JD from Regent University School of Law in Virginia.  Kirschner is a member of the Virginia State Bar, the Fredericksburg Bar Association and the Prince William Bar Association. She was a senior editor for the Regent Law Review. The idea for Bills of Rights Before the Bill of Rights: Early State Constitutions and the American Tradition of Rights 1776-1790 originated with a topic Kirschner chose as her senior honors thesis. 

One of 27 Jesuit universities in the nation, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York. Canisius celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary during the 2019-20 academic year, marking 150 years of Jesuit education and leadership in the city of Buffalo and Western New York.