What did the U.S. Constitution originally mean, and who has understood its meaning best? Do we look to the intentions of its framers at the Federal Convention of 1787, or to those of its ratifiers in the states? Or should we trust our own judgment in deciding whether the original meaning of the Constitution should still guide its later interpretation? These are the recurring questions in the ongoing process of analyzing and resolving constitutional issues, but they are also questions about the distant events of the eighteenth century. In this book, Jack Rakove approaches the debates surrounding the framing and ratification of the Constitution from the vantage point of history, examining the range of concerns that shaped the politics of constitution-making in the late 1780s, and which illuminate the debate about the role that "originalism" should play in constitutional interpretation. In answering these questions, Rakove reexamines the classic issues that the framers of the Constitution had to solve: federalism, representation, executive power, rights, and the idea that a constitution somehow embodied supreme law. In each of these cases, Original Meanings suggests that Americans of the early Republic held a spectrum of positions, some drawn from the controversial legacy of Anglo-American politics, others reflecting the course of events since 1776, the politics of the Federal Convention, or the spirited public debate that followed.
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