Notes and Reflections on Books and Media
by Hannah Leitheiser
American Dialogue: The Founders and Us
Joseph J. Ellis
- Joseph J. Ellis, American Dialogue: The Founders and Us (2018OCT16)
For a time the constitution was seen by the judicial as a living document which could be interpreted progressively as standards of justice evolved. However a backlash beginning in the 1970's founded the philosophy of originalism, demanding the constitutions be taken back to its original meaning, implying semi-sacredness of the founders and putting liberal interpretations on the defensive.
Original meanings and intentions are varied, however, as the constitution and bill of rights were documents of compromise. Madison collected recommended amendments, and mostly whittled them down to appease the maximum states with the minimum of compromise. Five states called for amendment prohibiting standing armies, writing as Virginia: "The people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms is the proper national, natural, and safe defense of a free state. That standing armies in times of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided." (An early Militia act would then require people to own guns.)
In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), Justice Antonin Scalia found that the original intentions of the founders was that owning weapons is an individual right. Government bans are unconstitutional, although some regulation is permitted. The author finds the connection with the founders contrived.