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Lost But Not Forgotten: Reviving the Original Meaning of the Constitution

Recorded on May 18, 2005

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

Our form of constitutionalism implies that those who make, interpret and enforce the law ought to be guided by the original meaning of the supreme law of the land, the United States Constitution. This view was undermined in the last century with the rise of the theory of the Constitution as a "living document" with no fixed meaning, subject to changing interpretations according to the spirit of the times. The ensuing debate and ongoing revival of "originalism" - sparked two decades ago by a series of public speeches by then-Attorney General Edwin Meese III - is one of the most significant shifts in modern American political and legal thought. What is originalism, and can it be restored in our constitutional jurisprudence? How can a jurisprudence of originalism address and deal with the established precedents of the last few decades? Is it too late for the original Constitution?