I hear it all the time.
“Originalism” is not only backward, it’s wrong!”
By “wrong” the people holding this position point to the nationalists of the founding generation, those who, after the Constitution was ratified, advanced a “national” centralized “United State” created by one American people.
Of course, the key to this belief is “after the Constitution was ratified,” because during the ratification process, nary a nationalist could be found. Even the most ardent among them–Alexander Hamilton and James Wilson–sounded a lot like real federalists, meaning they supported a “confederated republic” as Wilson called it in the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention.
John Dickinson was one of the more important voices in this ratification process. He was arguably one of the ten most important men from the founding generation. The “Penman of the Revolution” also scribbled several important essays in defense of the Constitution titled the Letters of Fabius.
Dickinson affirmed that the Union was comprised of “sovereign states” and that the general government under the Constitution only contained those powers granted to it by the states themselves while the states retained all others to be used at their discretion.
You won’t hear that in your public school government 101 course. You probably won’t hear Dickinson’s name, either.
But you will on my podcast and in my books. In fact, Episode 134 of The Brion McClanahan Show was aimed at an email I received asking what sources to use when studying the Constitution.
You should start with my Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution. I designed it for that purpose.
Originalism is not only the proper way to understand the document, it is the “Founding Fathers'” guide to the document.
Don’t let the other side fool you.
Brion McClanahan holds a Ph.D. in American History from the University of South Carolina and a faculty member at Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom. He is the author or co-author of four books, The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution, Forgotten Conservatives in American History (with Clyde Wilson), The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes (forthcoming, November 2012). Find him on Facebook and YouTube.