Written constitutionalism implies that those who make, interpret and enforce the law ought to be guided by the original meaning of the supreme law of the land, the United States Constitution. This view came to be seriously eroded over the course of the last century with the rise of the theory of the Constitution as a “living document” with no fixed meaning, subject to changing interpretations according to the spirit of the times. Having been revived in the 1980s, the argument between these approaches is now being voiced in our on-going public debate about the role of judges and the judiciary in American politics. How important is the Constitution in that debate? How is it to be interpreted and understood? Should those who apply the law be bound by the original meaning of the Constitution? How can that meaning be determined?
Matthew Spalding is the Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. An Adjunct Fellow with the Claremont Institute, he has taught American government at George Mason University, the Catholic University of America, Claremont McKenna College and Hillsdale College. He is the co-author of A Sacred Union of Citizens: Washington’s Farewell Address and the American Character, the Editor of The Founders’ Almanac: A Practical Guide to the Notable Events, Greatest Leaders & Most Eloquent Words of the American Founding and the Executive Editor of The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. He is on the Board of Academic Advisors at Mount Vernon Estate.