A Concise Guide to the Records of the State Ratifying Conventions as a Source of the Original Meaning of the U.S. Constitution

41 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2012 Last revised: 18 Jul 2012

Gregory E. Maggs

George Washington University Law School

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

This article was published by the University of Illinois Law Review in 2009. The citation is: Gregory E. Maggs, A Concise Guide to the Records of the State Ratifying Conventions as a Source of the Original Meaning of the U.S. Constitution, 2009 U. Ill. L. Rev. 457.

Starting in the fall of 1787, legislatures in the original thirteen states called for conventions for the purpose of deciding whether to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Many of the records of these state ratifying conventions have survived. The records reveal some of what the delegates at the state conventions said during their debates and discussions about the proposed Constitution. Accordingly, writers often cite these records as evidence of the original meaning of the Constitution.

Thousands of articles and hundreds of cases have cited the records of the state ratifying conventions to support claims about the original meaning of the Constitution. This Article offers a concise guide to these records, providing the basic information that lawyers, judges, law clerks, and legal scholars ought to have before advancing, contesting, or evaluating claims about the original meaning of the Constitution based on the records of the state ratifying conventions. It explains theories of how the records might help to prove the original intent of the Framers, the original understanding of the ratifiers, and the original objective meaning of the Constitution's text. The Article also considers eight possible grounds for impeaching assertions made about the original meaning, recommending that anyone making or evaluating a claim about the original meaning take these eight arguments into account and that anyone using these arguments to impeach claims about the original meaning consider the possible counterarguments.

This article is one of a series of articles on sources of the original meaning of the Constitution. See also Gregory E. Maggs, A Concise Guide to the Records of the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787 as a Source of the Original Meaning of the U.S. Constitution, 81 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2012); and Gregory E. Maggs, A Concise Guide to the Federalist Papers as a Source of the Original Meaning of the United States Constitution, 87 B.U. L. Rev. 801 (2007).

The article is also available at the University of Illinois Law Review website.

Keywords: ratifying conventions, ratification of Constitution, originalism, originalist, original meaning, original intent, original understanding

JEL Classification: K19, K30

Suggested Citation

Maggs, Gregory E., A Concise Guide to the Records of the State Ratifying Conventions as a Source of the Original Meaning of the U.S. Constitution (2009). University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 3, p. 457, 2009; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-61; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-61. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2104383

Gregory E. Maggs (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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