I was talking with a guy about government and regulations. He favors less government, less taxes, more freedom, unrestricted markets, etc. He told me that he finds his beliefs to be in line with the founders upon adoption of the Constitution. I guess you could say that makes him a fan of originalism.
There is no doubt about it. The founding fathers were visionaries and we should cherish the system they have given us. But his unwavering belief and total committment to originalism raises and important question: Were they infallible?
The answer, of course, is a resounding no.
Admitting this is in no way intended to diminish the awesome scope of what they accomplished. What they came up with is truly a marvel that stands to this day and beyond.
But what else did they believe in? Slavery comes to mind. The actual ownership of another human being. I guess we have to make allowances because it was a different era, but if I met anyone in favor of slavery today, I’d consider them insane.
How about women? What was their relegated role in society around the time the Constitution came into being? Well, they were practically slaves themselves. They were often pressured into marriage by 13 and 14 years of age, and had the legal system stacked against them. Once married they couldn’t legally control their finances, could not appear as a witness in court and could not legally vote. Husbands could legally beat their wives. The law was disparate in other strange ways as well. For example, a husband guilty of killing his wife would be hanged. A woman guilty of killing her husband would be burned alive.
I would hope this line of reasoning is evidence enough to prove that an originalism view of the Constitution (via the intent of those who created it) is far from perfect. Like any belief system, too much rigidity of thought and too much inflexibility can only lead to human suffering and pain. So if you want to prove a point in a political discussion with me, you had better come at me with somthing more than a strict originalist view of the Constitution, unless you are also advocating slavery and women lacking basic rights. (In which case I’ll know you’re a nut job and I’ll simply tell you to bite me!)