Alexander Hamilton’s Originalism

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We should read each legal document according to the plain sense of the text: the sense that was understood by its authors, or perhaps by the people by whose authority it became law. The task of interpretation is, in essence, a historical one. It should be concerned with past realities, not present conjectures. That is as compelling a definition of originalism as I can muster.

I’m not going to get into originalism deeply here. I just wanted to share a few lines from the pen of Alexander Hamilton. There’s a point where the argument for originalism folds in upon itself logically: the point where originalist historians and lawyers want to show that the authors or ratifiers of the original text intended or understood it to be interpreted according to its original intent or meaning. Originalist historiography then becomes a historiography of originalism itself. Lawyers, in my small experience, tend to like this, because they like doing the history of other lawyers. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHMail service was suspended in New England on Saturday (sadly, a possible harbinger of things to come), but a massive snowstorm (and the pain of shoveling) cannot stop the Junto’s week-in-review post.

It seems odd that the day is passing with relatively little fanfare, but today is actually the 250th anniversary of the Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years’ War. A momentous occasion with enormous consequences (that were, as often happens, largely unforeseen at the time).

In any event, on with the links!

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