The Textuality Of The Constitution And The Origins Of Original Intent

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Abstract
In this dissertation, I engage issues associated with the particular nature of the American Constitution, seeking why and how Americans have come so strongly to identify with the Constitution as a text, and with the framers of that document as authors of that text. This identification remains a central part of American political culture, placing limits upon what is ideologically permissible within the polity. Examining newspapers accounts, I trace the historical origins of the close association of the American Constitution with its "framers" - an idea that has currency through popular constitutional interpretation via "framer intent." I locate the genesis of this idea within three ideational environments within the early American Republic. These are (1) the emergence of the Author figure as a method of ordering texts, (2) the veneration of the founders and their association with the Constitution, and (3) the divergence of legal and non-elite constitutional interpretations. Each of these developmental strands contributed in forming a constellation within which claims of framer intent could come to carry weight. The final component of the dissertation explores the culmination of these processes within the debates over abolition with the District of Columbia in the 1830s, and the resultant turn to constitutional understandings predicated upon beliefs as to the framers' intentions rather than the text of the Constitution.
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2014-01-27
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Constitution; Early Republic
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Kramnick, Isaac
Frank, Jason
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Bensel, Richard F
Sanders, Mildred Elizabeth
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Government
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Ph. D., Government
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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