To Secure These Rights: The Declaration of Independence and Constitutional Interpretation

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NYU Press, Sep 1, 1996 - Law - 332 pages
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Scott Douglas Gerber here argues that the Constitution of the United States should be interpreted in light of the natural rights political philosophy of the Declaration of Independence and that the Supreme Court is the institution of American government that should be primarily responsible for identifying and applying that philosophy in American life. Importantly, the theory advanced in this book - what Gerber calls "liberal originalism" - is neither consistently "liberal" nor consistently "conservative" in the modern conception of those terms. Rather, the theory is liberal in the classic sense of viewing the basic purpose of government to be safeguarding the natural rights of individuals. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." In essence, Gerber maintains that the Declaration articulates the philosophical ends of our nation and that the Constitution embodies the means to effectuate those ends. From the opening chapter's bold revision of the character of the American Revolution to the closing chapter's provocative reinterpretation of many of the most famous cases in Supreme Court history, this book demonstrates the importance of approaching constitutional interpretation from more than one discipline. Indeed, Gerber's analysis reveals that the Constitution cannot be properly understood without recourse to history, political philosophy, and law.
  

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Contents

Liberal Originalism
1
The Jurisprudence of the American Founding
17
The Constitution of the United States
57
Natural Rights and the Role of the Court
93
Checks on the Court
134
Constitutional Interpretation
162
A New American Revolution?
196
Notes
205
Works Cited
269
Index
295
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

Scott Douglas Gerber is Visiting Assistant Professor of Government at the College of William and Mary.

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