The Framers’ Constitution: Toward a Theory of Principled Constitutionalism

Geoffrey R. Stone & William P. Marshall
Publication Date: 
September 12, 2011

ACS is pleased to distribute "The Framers’ Constitution: Toward a Theory of Principled Constitutionalism," an Issue Brief by Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at The University of Chicago and former Chair of the Board of the American Constitution Society, and William P. Marshall, William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina and Co-Chair of the Programs Committee of the Board of the American Constitution Society.

Stone and Marshall reject the “conservative constitutional narrative” as “deeply unprincipled and patently wrong,” taking the Framers for “timid men” rather than “visionaries.” Citing Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, the Issue Brief demonstrates why a “principled” reading of the Constitution requires judges to exercise judicial restraint and defer to political decision-making, except where there is “good reason to believe that the [political] process itself may have been tainted,” such as when governing majorities disadvantage historically vulnerable minority groups, or where they use their authority to stifle critics.

“In the end,” Stone and Marshall conclude, “constitutional interpretation is not a mechanical enterprise. It requires judges to exercise judgment. It calls upon them to consider text; history; precedent; values; changing social, economic, technological, and cultural conditions; and the practical realities of the times.”