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The modern debate over the meaning of the Constitution often devolves into dueling opinions between legal experts and judges. But the true meaning of the document and the kind of government it created isn’t found in Supreme Court decrees or through interpretation based on opinion.
Much like an author’s diary offers the most relevant commentary on the meaning of their book, the best way to learn what the meaning of the Constitution is to find out what those who approved it had to say. For that, we must return to the state ratifying conventions where the Constitution was discussed, debated and clarified before delegates voted to approve it.
While the essays found in the Federalist Papers provide an intellectual argument in favor of the Constitution, it was at the conventions where its supporters had to confront the specific concerns of skeptics and opponents.
Of them all, the Virginia Ratifying Convention – held June 2-27, 1788 – may offer the best insight into what kind of government the Constitution created.
At the convention, many aspects of the Constitution, such as the power of taxation, were thoroughly discussed and fervently debated. However, those who helped craft the Constitution, as well as its supporters, also made it unmistakably clear if approved it would set up a limited government with only certain specific powers delegated to it – powers that could be taken back if desired.
It is this part of the convention we’ll be focusing on in this e-book.
eBook: 23 pages
Publisher: Tenth Amendment Center (January, 2017)