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Original Meanings
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About the Author

Jack N. Rakove is the author of six books, including Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, which won the Pulitzer Prize in History, and Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, which was a finalist for the George Washington Prize. Rakove is the editor of seven other books, including The Unfinished Election of 2000.

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"The most thoughtful and careful scholarly analysis to date of the extent to which the framers should control our contemporary understanding of the Constitution."--Stanley N. Katz, American Council of Learned Societies

"The most thoughtful and careful scholarly analysis to date of the extent to which the framers should control our contemporary understanding of the Constitution."--Stanley N. Katz, American Council of Learned Societies

Legal conservatives periodically call for judicial decisions based on an interpretation of the Constitution that accords with the "original intent" of those who wrote and ratified it. That's a vexed matter, as Stanford University historian Rakove (The Beginnings of National Politics) shows in this nuanced reconstruction of constitutional debates. First, he explores the difficulty of even divining the understanding of the framers. He goes on to explore James Madison's vital theorizing about federalism, the compromises involved in granting states equal Senate seats and counting slaves in the population, the concept of the Presidency and the adoption of the Bill of Rights. Rakove suggests that the country's political future‘whether oriented toward the statehouses or the national capital‘depends less on the framers and their constitutional language than on the actions of the American people in the framework that has been created. Moreover, he warns that even Madison's contemporary appeal to originalism was hardly a posture of neutrality. This detailed book will appeal most to students and scholars. (Apr.)

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