Bench Memos

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Re: The Republican Debate


I overlooked one other passage with some bearing on the Supreme Court.  In response to Chris Matthews’s question whether the Constitution should be amended to eliminate the requirement that the president be “a natural born Citizen”, Ron Paul stated that he would oppose such an amendment “because I am a strong supporter of the original intent.” 


Insofar as Paul is maintaining that he is an originalist in his approach to the Constitution, his response is inadequate.  Originalists do not maintain that the Constitution should not be amended.  We maintain, rather, that the provisions of the Constitution and of other laws should be interpreted in accordance with the meaning they bore at the time they were promulgated.  Stated somewhat differently, we originalists oppose the Supreme Court’s amending (in effect) the Constitution through lawless decisionmaking.  But we have no principled objection to use of the amendment procedure that the Constitution itself prescribes.


While I’m at it, I’ll again urge originalists to speak of “original meaning” rather than “original intent”—unless of course they actually mean to endorse original-intent principles.  (For a brief discussion of the difference, see the first few paragraphs of this essay of mine.)

Tags: Whelan


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