The goal of originalism has always been purity Originalists claim that heir methods cleanse constitutional interpretation of politics discretion and indeterminacy The key to attaining purity is history Originalist methods supposedly discern in history a fixed constitutional meaning Many originalists now claim that the most advanced method the approach that reveals the purest constitutional meaning is reasonableperson originalism These new originalists ask the following question When the Constitution was adopted how would a hypothetical reasonable person have understood the text This Article examines historical evidence from the early decades of nationhood to achieve two goals First it demonstrates that reasonableperson originalism is incoherent at its historical core As an interpretive method originalism cannot achieve its stated goal to identify fixed and objective constitutional meanings Contrary to originalist claims historical research uncovers contingencies and contexts More specifically the evidence shows that reasonableperson originalim is historically unjustified Early in the nations history neither lawyers nor laypersons would have suggested that constitutional interpretation should be based on the views of a hypothetical reasonable person Second the Article demonstrates that the historical evidence instead supports an alternative conception of constitutional interpretation In the early decades numerous Americans including framers Supreme Court justices and constitutional scholars used an eclectic or pluralist approach to constitutional interpretation Depending on the case an eclectic interpreter considered a shifting variety of factors including original meaning framers intentions practical consequences and judicial precedents
Feldman, Stephen Matthew, "Constitutional Interpretation and History: New Originalism or Eclecticism?" (2015). Faculty Articles. 104.