Liberal Originalism: A Past for the Future

44 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2005


Liberal originalism is a theory of constitutional interpretation which holds that the Constitution should be interpreted through the lens of the Declaration of Independence and that the Declaration is itself part of the organic law of the United States. Liberal originalism contrasts with the conservative originalism of scholars who view the Declaration as having no legal significance. This article examines liberal originalism, keeping a general focus on the essays in Scott Gerber's book Declaration of Independence: Origins And Impact. It offers some reflections on the liberal originalist project in general, some of the objections to liberal originalism, and the ways in which a liberal originalist interpretation of the Constitution would differ from current interpretive theories.

Keywords: Liberal originalism, Scott Douglas Gerber, Declaration of Independence, Locke, Jefferson, natural rights, natural law, classical liberalism, Robert Bork, Harry Jaffa

JEL Classification: K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Sandefur, Timothy, Liberal Originalism: A Past for the Future. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 27, p. 489, 2004. Available at SSRN:

Timothy Sandefur (Contact Author)

Goldwater Institute ( email )

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