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The Case for Original Intent

22 Pages Posted: 25 May 2012 Last revised: 24 Jul 2012

Jamal Greene

Columbia University - Law School

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

Suggested Citation

Greene, Jamal, The Case for Original Intent (May 24, 2012). George Washington Law Review, Forthcoming; Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 12-309. Available at SSRN:

Jamal Greene (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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