In support of the conservative agenda known as originalism, Kay C. James of the Heritage Foundation attacks the liberal concept of a "living Constitution," labeling the theory "a danger to our constitution." ("After more than 230 years, our nation's Constitution is threatened from within," Sept. 16).
The core ideology of originalism is "contemporary standards of justice cannot take precedence over the values that prevailed when the constitution was written."
However this view willfully ignores what Thomas Jefferson had to say.
In an 1816 letter to Samuel Kercheval, he wrote: "Some men look at Constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them, like the Ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched … we might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."
The Heritage Foundation hired gun believes the only way to save the republic is by keeping it exactly as our Founders created it.
But if the wisdom of the Founders is to prevail, as Jefferson stated it, just as a suit of clothes worn by a child will someday need replacing, so to the need for the country to grow from its fancy to maturity and occasionally need to change.
In Jefferson's terms, these originalists expect everyone, no matter how much they may have grown and matured, to continue to wear those same old, worn out, threadbare, ill-fitting ragged and faded, hand-me-down clothes, no matter how much better suited new and more comfortable ones might fit.
And that is originalism at its core.
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