I had a couple of frustrating conversations about the Constitution reently.

My frustration stems from the fact that both of these individuals adamantly stuck to an erroneous understanding of certain clauses despite the numerous founding-era sources I referenced to prove them wrong.

Apparently, their “logic” trumps James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution.”

But the truth is a lot of people approach the Constitution this way. They have some general notion about the purpose of the Constitution and then they shoehorn the meaning of various clauses to fit their narrative. They’ll assert that the Constitution was meant to “protect liberty” or that it was intended to “empower government to get stuff done” and then they go from there. Or sometimes they’ll just create their own train of logic based on their interpretation of various words in the document.

I have to confess, sometimes these arguments can seem pretty compelling if taken in isolation.

But I don’t approach the Constitution that way at all. I’ve spent the last decade studying what supporters of the Constitution said it meant during the ratification process. This was precisely the way Thomas Jefferson said we should understand the document.

“On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

You also need to understand the 18th-century legal framework that the Constitution is rooted in.

This is the approach I took in researching and writing my book, Constitution Owner’s Manual: The Real Constitution the Politicians Don’t Want You to Know About.

If you are going to make an assertion about the meaning of a certain constitutional provision, you have to prove it. You need to cite supporters of the Constitution making your argument during the ratification debates. If you can’t, your assertion is probably erroneous.

Constitution Owner’s Manual isn’t Mike Maharrey’s opinion on the meaning of the Constitution. It’s based on what the founders said and scholarly work explaining the 18th-century legal framework it was based on. It’s packed with quotes from supporters of the Constitution as it was being debated and ratified.

You can learn more about the book at ConstitutionOwnersManual.com.

Mike Maharrey

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