The Case for Original Intent
22 Pages Posted: 25 May 2012 Last revised: 24 Jul 2012
Date Written: May 24, 2012
This essay, written for a symposium celebrating the centennial of Max Farrand's Records of the Federal Convention, seeks to situate the constitutional culture's heavy reliance on the Convention debates within an academic environment that is generally hostile to original intent arguments. The essay argues that intentionalist-friendly sources like the Convention records and The Federalist remain important not because they supply evidence of original meaning but rather because the practice of advancing historical arguments is best understood as a rhetorical exercise that derives persuasive authority from the heroic character of the founding generation. This exercise fits within a long tradition of originalist argument and need not be abandoned in the quest for a more perfect originalism.
Keywords: originalism, original meaning, original intent, federalist, constitutional convention, ethos
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