Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 July 2019
Moving beyond the current flaws in originalism will require developing a genuinely historical approach to reading Founding era texts that draws on the best inter-disciplinary methods available. Reading legal texts historically will require originalism adopt standard historical practices, not reject them. Scholars must get the history right before deciding if any of the historical meanings recoverable from a careful study of the original debate over the Constitution might be relevant to modern law. Determining which meanings might be probative or dispositive for modern legal issues is a separate task from the process of uncovering the legal meaning of Founding era constitutional texts. Deciding what, if any relevance, such historical meaning ought to have in contemporary law is at its core a legal question, and not one that history can answer. Still, if legal scholars are going to cite history as authority, they have an obligation to get the history right.
He thanks Gautham Rao, Charles Barzun, Frank Cogliano, Jonathan Gienapp, and Calvin Terbeek for valuable suggestions. This article was written during his time as a fellow at the Florsheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at Cardozo Law School. He thanks the center's codirectors Kate Shaw and Deborah Pearlstein for their support. Excellent research support was provided by Jonah Estess.
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70. The headnote to the Dissent in the DHRC offers numerous examples of contemporary Federalist and anti-Federalist reactions, see DHRC 15:7–13.
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