Originalism: Historic and Philosophic Roots

Originalism: Historic and Philosophic Roots

Why study Constitution and influences on our Founding Fathers? What insights do they have for us today?

This unit in the No. 86 video curriculum explores some key ideas that undergirded the writing of the Constitution: natural rights, separation of powers, mixed regime theory, federalism.  These ideas came from varied sources: the British Constitutional experience, English and Scottish Enlightenment scholars, the French philosopher Montesquieu, and others.

“Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.”

― Federalist No. 2

The Constitution is a complex document, one that was ratified only after intense debate.  Studying that complexity enables us to better understanding the origins of the document.

This unit also deals with normative questions such as:  Does adherence to the Constitution of 1787 bind us to the ‘dead hand’ of the past?  What right did our Founding Fathers have to create a document that binds us today?

 

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5 of 6: The 14th Amendment interpreted against its original meaning [No. 86]

Could an Originalist interpretation of the 14th Amendment have prevented egregious court decisions? Professor John McGinnis argues that true equality and civil rights for African Americans were intended in the 14th Amendment. In Plessy v. Ferguson ... Could an Originalist interpretation of the 14th Amendment have prevented egregious court decisions?

Professor John McGinnis argues that true equality and civil rights for African Americans were intended in the 14th Amendment. In Plessy v. Ferguson and other cases, the Supreme Court chose to ignore the original meaning of the 14th Amendment and thus gave rise to decades of injustice that could have been avoided.

Professor John O. McGinnis is the George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law at Northwestern University School of Law.

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As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.

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