How To Read And Study The Constitution (and other founding documents) in the words of the founding Fathers themselves.
It was – and typically still is – a fundamental maxim of law to determine the intent of the authors of a statute before attempting to apply it.
- Founder Noah Webster “ Not only misinterpretation but even serious error can result when original meanings are ignored.”
- Justice Joseph Story (his father was an “Indian” at the Boston tea party) founder of Harvard Law School called the foremost of American legal writers, Supreme Court Judge – “ The first and fundamental rule in the interpretation of all instruments [documents] is to construe them according to the sense of the terms and the intentions of the parties.”
- Justice James Wilson – one of only 6 FF who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, second most active member of the Constitutional Convention Speaking 168 times, original S.C. Justice, co-author of America’s First Legal Commentaries on the Constitution – “The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.”
- Thomas Jefferson – President –“ On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”
- James Madison “I entirely concur in the proprietary of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the Nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable, more then for a faithful, exercise of it’s powers. . . . what a metamorphosis would be produced in the code of law if all it’s ancient phraseology were to be taken in it’s modern sense.”
- Noah Webster, first to call for the Constitutional Convention, responsible for the copyright and patent protection clause in the Constitution, compiled the first dictionary defining over 70,000 words, and a master of language learning over 20 languages – “In the lapse of two or three centuries, changes have taken place which in particular passages . . . obscure the sense of the original languages . . . The effect of these changes is that some words are . . . being now used in a sense different from that which they had . . . [and thus] present wrong signification or false ideas. Whenever words are understood in a sense different from that which they had when introduced . . . mistakes may be very injurious.”
Alexander Hamilton said all that is needed to understand a certain phrase or clause in the Constitution is to apply the “unsophisticated dictates of common sense”.
Declaration Of Independence
The Story Of A Government That Almost Didn’t Happen
The Bill Of Rights
Quotes to ponder:
“Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of power . . . it is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions.” Daniel Webster
“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and governments to gain ground.” Thomas Jefferson
“To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.” James Madison