Commonplace Book #33

But what the original-intentions debate brought most sharply into relief was a different question of time: how clearly one could penetrate through the incomplete and muddied historical record to its original, undistorted core. The illusion of original-intentions’ advocates, the Constitution’s leading historian Jack Rakove wrote, was what ‘a particular set of pristine meanings, uncorrupted by interpretation, was somehow locked into the text of the Constitution at the moment of its adoption.’ But could one know with any useful certainty what lay behind the words the Constitution’s drafters had used, when there were so many points of view in the convention, so many verbal compromises to accomplish, when they kept their own deliberations secret and barred the records from publication.

Daniel T. Rodgers, The Age of Fracture, 238