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The Constitution and the Intentions of the Framers: The Limits of Historical Analysis

50 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2009  

Paul Finkelman

University of Pittsburgh, School of Law; Albany Law School - Government Law Center

Date Written: 1989

Abstract

This article explores how intentionalists approach issues of constitutionality, by examples here of the debate surrounding the creation and abolition of the national bank and the Amendments following the Civil War. Intentionalists presume that the framers can be precisely identified, that they had one, rather than several, “intention” on a particular subject, that the framers knew of these intentions, and that the meaning of language in the 18th or 19th century was so precise that the framers collectively agreed on it. However, as seen with the changes of the national bank, and with issues of race, whether the framers intended the meaning and language of society itself to remain constant (during their time and into the future) is also debatable, and therefore, emphasis on the framers’ intentions should be used carefully.

Suggested Citation

Finkelman, Paul, The Constitution and the Intentions of the Framers: The Limits of Historical Analysis (1989). University of Pittsburgh Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 2, 1989. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1434947

Paul Finkelman (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh, School of Law ( email )

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Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-2079 (Phone)

Albany Law School - Government Law Center ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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