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Original Meaning Jurisprudence: A Sourcebook

NCJ Number
Date Published
177 pages
This report presents and explains the principles of original meaning jurisprudence, which tries to interpret the provisions of the Constitution as those provisions were generally understood at the time of their adoption by the society that framed and ratified them.
The analysis emphasizes the debate between the interpretivists, who believe that the Constitution must be interpreted in accordance with the original meaning of its terms, and the non-interpretivists, who see the Constitution as a document whose meaning changes over time to accommodate the shifting values of each succeeding generations. The analysis argues that original meaning jurisprudence is the only approach that respects the status of the Constitution as fundamental law and is the only approach that preserves the Constitution's fusion of individual rights and democratic self-government. Individual sections also present rebuttals to arguments presented by non-interpretivists and present examples of cases in which judges looked either to original meaning or to their own social or economic beliefs in interpreting the Constitution. 52 references and appendixes presenting reprints of speeches and articles and the text of the Constitution.