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Authors

Harry V. Jaffa

Abstract

This Article explains how the doctrine of original intent might be defended as the basis for interpreting the Constitution. The deepest political differences in American history have always been differences concerning the meaning of the Constitution, whether as originally intended, or as amended. Since the Civil War, the debate has often taken the form of a dispute over whether or not the Civil War amendments, notably the fourteenth, have changed the way in which the whole Constitution, and not only the amended parts, is read or interpreted. It is not possible to even discuss how or whether the Civil War amendments transformed the original Constitution without saying first of all what the original Constitution was, which this Article seeks to do. Appendix A explores Attorney General Meese’s views on original intent, while Appendix B focuses on the Declaration of Independence to shed light on the original intent debate. Finally, Appendix C addresses the paradox that those who today most aggressively appeal to the doctrine of original intent are among its most resolute antagonists.