The Incorporation Doctrine

Definition: The precedent, first clearly articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad v. Chicago (1897) and firmly established in Gitlow v. New York (1925), that the Fourteenth Amendment makes the Bill of Rights applicable to state law as well as federal law.

Until the incorporation doctrine was adopted, the Bill of Rights applied only to federal law. State law was regulated by the individual state bills of rights, found in each state constitution, but the federal court system's power to strike down oppressive state laws was almost nonexistent.