Interpreting the Constitution

Discussion in 'Politics' started by fromtheright, Aug 2, 2006.

  1. fromtheright

    fromtheright
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    What should guide the interpretation of the Constitution? The text only? Original intent? Original intent of whom: the Framers in Philadelphia, the ratifying conventions? Should the interpretations in the early Congresses play any role? Should the writings of the Founders be consulted? Which Founders? Why not others? Should Federalist views only be sought, or also anti-Federalists? Should natural law be consulted? What pre-Revolutionary English history/writings be considered? Is the Constitution a "living document" that grows and changes with the times? Is there an "unwritten Constitution" that should be consulted?
     
  2. El_Guero

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    Brother!

    You are starting up the "mother of all freedom of speech wars".

    Original intent of course. As preached by our Baptist preacher ancestors even more naturally. And interpreted by their descendent's with my interpretation being best - almost all of the time.



    :type: I was wrong once. At first I thought I was wrong, then I realized I was right. So I was wrong only as long while I thought I was wrong.
    :saint:
     
  3. billwald

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    The USofA is governed by case law, not the Constitiution, because that is how the Constitution was written. If the writers didn't want the Supreme Court to be the ultimate authority then they could have authorized Congress to over rule the Court with a super majority.
     
  4. fromtheright

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    bill, I'll make a note of your opinion when I post a thread asking if the Constitution is in force or if our government is following it, but please feel free to answer: as to understanding the meaning of the Constitution in response to particular problems or cases that are presented, what is the proper interpretive tool in ascertaining its meaning and how it applies to a situation?
     
  5. El_Guero

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    Bill,

    I point out . . . amendments . . . bill of rights being the most recognized. So the Framers intended the Constitution to be modified by the Congress & the people. They did not intend democracy without a rudder.

    But, during the absence of new guidance, the Framers intended the Constitution to be interpreted by their situation and intent. They should not be interpreted in light of our experience and our intent.

     
  6. The Galatian

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    The men who wrote the Constitution were well aware that they couldn't put everything in the document, and that it wouild have to change. They tried to put as much play in the wording as they could, without making it easy for a tyrant to abuse it.

    Jefferson himself, the strictest of constructionists, found in the penumbra of the Constitution, the right to make the Louisiana purchase, even though it does not specifically authorize such a thing.
     
  7. fromtheright

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    Galatian,

    I disagree with you.

    As to the play in the wording, I believe they wanted to avoid too much play, at least, and believed in a strictly limited central government, as indicated by the signature line in my posts (my favorite Founder quote), re the chains of the Constitution. I realize, though, that the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions were rejected by the other states, but I believe the Founders believed strongly that the Constitution was to provide a strong barrier to central government power.

    Although he wound up doing it without an amendment, Jefferson was torn in his decision re the Louisiana Purchase and felt that an amendment was in fact necessary but found himself confronted with a "once in a lifetime sale".
     
    #7 fromtheright, Aug 3, 2006
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  8. The Galatian

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    Jefferson's argument was that the authority to make treaties gave him the power to buy land from other nations.

    In other words, he did some interpreting as to the spirit of the document, even if the authority wasn't explicitly stated.
     
  9. El_Guero

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    Right on! :thumbs:

     
  10. fromtheright

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    Jefferson's proposal, following Madison's recommendation:

    In his letter to Gallatin of Jan. 13, 1803, expressed doubts about taking that territory into the U.S. positing it "safer not to permit the enlargement of the Union but by amendment of the Constitution."

    Included in his papers was a proposed Amendment to the Constitution:

    Also:

    SOURCE

    SOURCE

    SOURCE

    SOURCE

    SOURCE

    SOURCE
     
    #10 fromtheright, Aug 3, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2006
  11. El_Guero

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    FTR

    Pretty good studies!

    Wayne
     
  12. fromtheright

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    I can't take any credit, most of it was just some quick Internet searches, mostly to counter Galatian's point re Jefferson's view on amending the Constitution; it turns out we're both right, I think, as he did, as Galatian pointed out, proceed to send it to the Senate. IMO, the treaty power rationalization wasn't what he really believed, though.
     
  13. The Galatian

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    So from the start, the Constitution was interpreted in light of the intent of the founders, not the letter of the Law.

    Jefferson concluded that the right to make treaties was sufficient, on the advice of others.

    Gallatin went on to advise Jefferson that the United States as a nation has the right to acquire territory and that when the territory was gained by way of treaty the same constituted authorities in whom the treaty making power is vested have a constitutional right to sanction the acquisition, and once a territory has been acquired Congress has the power of either of admitting into the Union as a new state, or of annexing to a State with the consent of that state, or of making regulations for the government of such territory. This interpretation of the Constitution was perhaps as liberal and broad as the Federalists themselves might have made. Gallatin was not alone in his interpretation of the Constitution. Thomas Paine took the occasion to voice his opinion on the matter in a letter to Jefferson. Paine's letter, along with the position that Gallatin held, slowly worked to change Jefferson's mind on the constitutional issue. He still held to the idea that an amendment to the Constitution would be necessary to incorporate the Louisiana Territory into the Union. This was due to Jefferson's strict constructionist views towards the constitution. Accordingly, Jefferson drafted two amendments to the Constitution, but finally on advice of his constituents never submitted either of them to Congress for debate.
    http://www.freeessays.cc/db/1/auj121.shtml

    Obviously, the Federalists (one of whom is considered the father of the Constitution) were quite open to such an interpretation.
     
  14. El_Guero

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    http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=22950

     
  15. El_Guero

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    OK

    Back to what I was a sayin'! The state of Virginia (not Texas) had a key role in the bill of rights and the first ammendment.
     
  16. El_Guero

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    http://www.mainstreambaptists.org/mbn/Patriots.htm
     
  17. El_Guero

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    Now I know that is what I remember history like . . . I had forgotten SS and Trng Union! AND John T. Christian's Baptist History!

    http://www.pbministries.org/History/John%20T.%20Christian/vol2/history2_part2_03.htm
     
  18. fromtheright

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    EG,

    I'm going to stay out of that particular debate on this thread. We have been discussing this subject on THIS THREAD and I don't like to duplicate discussions, though y'all are more than welcome to. I am limiting my discussion on this thread to the subject of the OP, which is methods/sources to be used in interpreting the Constitution.


    Galatian,

    Slight historical difference with your statement that

    By that time, Madison no longer considered himself a Federalist but rather a leader, along with Jefferson, of the Republicans.
     
    #18 fromtheright, Aug 3, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2006
  19. El_Guero

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    Then how do we discuss the interpretation of the constitution if we do not discuss the background that the Framers intended including the reason for the Bill of Rights?

    ;)

    humbly your servant.
     
  20. fromtheright

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    What I was looking for in this thread was

    rather than a discussion of origin or reason(s) for the Bill of Rights. Lots of folks, including myself claim to be originalists but there are different varieties such as textualists, etc. There are serious differences even between Scalia and Thomas, and between them and Rehnquist. What I'm looking for on this thread is what tools should be used to determine what the Constitution or particular phrases mean when applied to real issues or even more broadly.
     

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