Negotiating the Constitution: The Earliest Debates over Original Intent

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9780801435584: Negotiating the Constitution: The Earliest Debates over Original Intent
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No concept sparks more controversy in constitutional debate than "original intent." Offering a legal historian's approach to the subject, this book demonstrates that the framers deliberately obscured one of their more important decisions. Joseph M. Lynch argues that the Constitution was a product of political struggles involving regional interests, economic concerns, and ideology. The framers, he maintains, settled on enigmatic wording of the Necessary and Proper Clause and of the General Welfare provision in the Spending Clause as a compromise, leaving the extent of federal power to be determined by the political process. During ratification, however, attempts by dissident framers to undo the compromise were repelled in The Federalist: charges of overly broad congressional powers were met with protestations that in fact these powers were limited. Lynch describes how early lawmakers applied the Constitution to such issues as executive power and privilege, the deportation of aliens, and the prohibition of seditious speech. He follows the disputes over the interpretation of this document―focusing on James Madison's changing views―as the new government took shape and political parties were formed. Lynch points out that the first six Congresses and President George Washington disregarded the framers' intentions when they were deemed impractical to follow. In contrast, he warns that the version of original intent put forth in recent Supreme Court opinions regarding congressional power could hinder Congress in serving the nation.

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From the Inside Flap:

"This book is a carefully crafted, thoroughly researched, engagingly skeptical, and at times quite pugnacious account of what happened to the Constitution in the period between its adoption and the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson in 1801. Lynch convincingly demonstrates that relatively little confidence can be placed in the post-1789 views and actions of the Constitution's framers as guides to the meaning of that document. His work strikes a refreshing note, in welcome contrast to the all-too-common tendency for scholars of the founding era to take for granted the notion that somehow the framers were of a different order of being."--Herbert Sloan, Barnard College, Columbia University

About the Author:

JOSEPH M. LYNCH is Professor of Law Emeritus at Seton Hall University School of Law.

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9780801472718: Negotiating the Constitution: The Earliest Debates over Original Intent

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ISBN 10:  0801472717 ISBN 13:  9780801472718
Publisher: Cornell University Press, 2005
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