Legal Reference

Original meaning of the Constitution

RE: [lpaz-discuss] Re: Killing the Federal government beast
Friday, May 1, 2009 8:58 AM
From: John Buttrick

> I'd be the last one to advocate attempts to infer intent. Original
> intent is as dead as Jesus and Optimus Prime and Bambi's mother, and it
> should stay that way.

> What I take issue with is reading the Commerce Clause as meaning
> something it did not mean to contemporary readers at the time of
> writing. Like "direct tax", both "commerce" and "among the several
> states" meant something more specific to a reader at the time of
> ratification than they do to us. I don't think the meaning of the law
> should change because of subtle changes in diction.

> So you don't like original intent; you like original inference. Got it.

This is sometimes referred to as "original meaning" as opposed to "original intent."

A good explication of this theory of constitutional interpretation can be found in Chapter Four of Randy Barnett's book "Restoring the Lost Constitution." Chapter Eleven of the same book contains an interesting discussion of the meaning of the Commerce Clause.