CJohnson at law.utexas.edu
Tue Mar 17 13:57:18 PDT 2009
Even if you are going to define words by historical
usage, you should do the history right by punching through to the
program. All words in historical documents are weapons within some
political fight to gain allies, demoralizing opponents and pull in a few
fence sitters to get some program accomplished. You understand the
words only by translating them into the program. I generally find
that the program definition allows to act like lawyers, saying eg that
is issue is unlike the 1787 program or enough analogous to the 1787 that
the history has some bite. An ordinary speaker of the time would
translate words into program instantaneously, but we cant without some
work. Again we need 100 case samples from 1787 to get the programs
right. Even dictionaries of the period are too remote evidence.
Samual Johnson recorded the wars and words of his politics, which do not
overlap completely with constitutional politics.
Calvin H. Johnson
Andrews & Kurth Centennial Professor of Law
The University of Texas School of Law
727 E. Dean Keeton (26th) St.
Austin, TX 78705
(512) 232-1306 (voice)
FAX: (512) 232-2399
For reviews, chapters, discounts and news on Johnson, Righteous Anger at
the Wicked States: The Meaning of the Founders Constitution (Cambridge
University Press 2005) see
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