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Book Review

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It is a privilege to participate in this exchange with Bruce Frohnen concerning our books. In my Fidelity to Our Imperfect Constitution, I observe that in recent years, many have assumed that originalists have a monopoly on concern for fidelity in constitutional interpretation. I reject all forms of originalism and defend a moral reading of the United States Constitution. Such a conception views the Constitution as embodying abstract moral and political principles, not codifying concrete historical rules or practices. It sees interpretation of those principles as requiring normative judgments about how they are best understood, not merely historical research to discover relatively specific original meanings. I argue that fidelity in interpreting the Constitution requires a moral reading. Fidelity commits us to honoring the aspirational principles embodied in our constitutional text and practice, not merely following the relatively specific original meanings of the Founders. Only a moral reading that aspires to interpret our imperfect Constitution so as to make it the best it can be gives us hope of interpreting it in a manner that may deserve our fidelity.


This is a book review/discussion of comparison between James Fleming's Fidelity to Our Imperfect Constitution, and Bruce P. Frohnen's and George W. Carey's Constitutional Morality and the Rise of Quasi-Law. It is broken into sections written alternatingly by James Fleming and Bruce Frohnen, as they have a dialogue regarding their thoughts on each other's works and each's reviews and responses.

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