The Language of the Constitution

The Language of the Constitution

The Language of the Constitution

The Language of the Constitution

Synopsis

What did the Founding Fathers mean when they wrote the Constitution? As our language has evolved, the exact meaning of their words has become more difficult to understand. To make the words and concepts used by the founders clearer to modern researchers, Greene and his colleagues have gone back to the sources and excerpted the key passages that bear on the concepts and language of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. More than 80 key words are organized in alphabetical order, from "accusation" to "witness." Under each entry passages from key sources are provided in chronological order from as early as 1215 to December 15, 1791. Augmented by a concordance to the Constitution and a general subject index, this volume provides access to the key concepts and ideas of the Constitution as the founders understood them.

Excerpt

Respect for the printed word is an essential ingredient of the impartial and effective delivery of justice. Courts are regularly called upon to interpret the meaning of words, as used by legislatures, executives, other judges, or private parties. To understand fully the meaning of those words, we must have some knowledge of the context from which meanings and usages arise--what was meant by the writer and understood by the reader.

This unique work applies modern computer technology to assist our understanding of the words of the United States Constitution, and what the key words and phrases in that document meant in the context of the legal and political discourse of the eighteenth century. It reminds us that the meaning of some words in our language has undergone change since the Framers' time--a time when "to demean" meant primarily "to conduct (oneself)," not "to disparage." But if much has changed, much has also remained the same. Now, as then, this nation is dedicated to preserving the rights of the people through the rule of law. The printed word makes the law and the reasoning behind the law available to everyone. This book helps to provide the keys to unlock the Constitution and its reasoning; it will be a tool for the enlightenment of students everywhere.

Warren E. Burger Chairman, Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution Chief Justice of the United States, 1969-1986 . . .

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