Narrative, Interpretation, and the Ratification of the Constitution
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I am grateful to the participants in this forum for their careful and enthusiastic responses to Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788. Some comments usefully extend the discussion beyond what’s in the book . Maeva Marcus pushes the story into the 1790s, when the new Supreme Court took up issues that had played a role in the ratification debates, and demonstrates the continued fluidity of constitutional understandings. For both Marcus and Seth Cornell, the complexity of arguments described in the book weighs powerfully against modern judicial theories of “originalism.” However, as Cornell correctly observes, I deliberately avoided discussing the modern debate over originalism in Ratification, and I intend to do the same thing here. It seems more appropriate to use this opportunity to address the “authorial decisions” that interest Todd Estes and the more general issue of how the book contributes to historical interpretations of ratification, an event that one reviewer described as “one of the greatest political brawls of all time.”i
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
William and Mary Quarterly
Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture
“Narrative, Interpretation, and the Ratification of the Constitution.” The William and Mary Quarterly 69.2 (2012): 382-390.