The Ordinary Meaning of the Antiquities Act of 1906: A Corpus Linguistic Analysis

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See all articles by James Cleith Phillips

James Cleith Phillips

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law

John Yoo

University of California at Berkeley School of Law; American Enterprise Institute; Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace

Date Written: December 12, 2020

Abstract

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorized presidents to declare to be national monuments objects that were situated upon lands owned or controlled by the federal government. Further, the Act allowed the president to reserves parcels of land around the object to protect it. In recent years, Presidents Bush and Obama have relied on the Act to declare objects such as coral reefs and sea canyons to be national monuments, reserving millions of square miles of ocean for their protection.

This essay seeks to determine what the ordinary meaning of the Act was in 1906. Relying on the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA), the paper finds that American English leading up to and around the time of the adoption of the Act did not use the terms and phrases in the Act to refer to anything found under the ocean. The ordinary meaning of the Act, then, would appear to not authorize the marine monuments created by recent presidents.

Keywords: textualism, corpus linguistics, antiquities act

Suggested Citation

Phillips, James Cleith and Yoo, John Choon, The Ordinary Meaning of the Antiquities Act of 1906: A Corpus Linguistic Analysis (December 12, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

James Cleith Phillips (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://https://www.chapman.edu/our-faculty/james-phillips

John Choon Yoo

University of California at Berkeley School of Law ( email )

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Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
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American Enterprise Institute ( email )

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Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.hoover.org/profiles/john-yoo

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