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Rule of Constitutional Construction

At the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution, Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England had been published about twenty years, and more copies of the work had been sold in this country than in England; “so that undoubtedly, the framers of the Constitution were familiar with it”, and considered it “the preëminent authority on English law” . Every legally literate American was also aware of the general rule for statutory construction which Blackstone taught.

Original Intent

“Original Intent” or “Original Meaning”

"Original Intent" or "Original Meaning"“hile remains unaltered, it must be construed now as it was understood at the time of its adoption. It...
Common Law

English Common Law

English Common Law"The language of the Constitution cannot be interpreted safely except by references to the common law . . . when the...
organic law

Declaration of Independence

The Constitution of the United States and all State constitutions derive from, and must conform to and promote, the principles of the Declaration of...
Federalist Papers

Federalist Papers

Federalist Papers: Inconclusive as to the meaning of any constitutional provision. Considering the tumultuous circumstances in which they found themselves, even the most prominent figures...
Preamble to the Constitution


Preamble to the Constitution“The Preamble sets out the mandatory and unconditional purposes of the Constitution. In so doing, it establishes an overarching rule of...
First Ten Amendments to the Constitution

Bill of Rights

"Further Declaratory and Restrictive Clauses"The preamble to the Resolution which presented for ratification what became the Bill of Rights stated that, “in order to prevent...
Meaning of words in the Constitution

Meaning of Words in the Constitution

Words and Phrases in the ConstitutionThat certain words may have developed different meanings over time is inadmissible as an argument for construing the Constitution. For...
Quotes from the Founding Fathers

Statements From the Founders

Statements and Quotations: InconclusiveThe rule of legal construction that WE THE PEOPLE employed in the late 1700s (and must, absent amendment of the Constitution,...
The Constitution and Dictionaries

Contemporary Dictionaries

DictionariesThe “technical” meaning of a word or phrase is the particular meaning the law attaches to it, which almost always will be narrower and...
living document

“Living” Constitution

As a constitutional rule of construction that cannot be repeated to often, “If *** we are at liberty to give old words new meanings ***...
"well regulated Militia" 2nd Amendment

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"Usurpation"“Usurpation” – the exercise of some otherwise legitimate governmental power as to which the particular actor actor enjoys no legal claim.Source: John Locke, Two Treatises of Government,...
implied powers

“Aggregate Powers”

“Aggregate Powers”: Powers Cobbled Together and Exercised by Rogue Government Officials That are Not Enumerated in the Constitution Typically, when aspiring usurpers and tyrants cannot rationalize...

“War”: The Constitutional Meaning

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special interest groups

“Factions” or “Special Interest” Groups

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