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February 22: Ilan Wurman, “Can a Dead Constitution Bind the Living?”
February 22, 2018 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
The Department of Political Science presents a lecture by Illan Wurman, Nonresident Fellow at the Stanford Constitutional Law Center and attorney in Washington D.C., titled “Can a Dead Constitution Bind the Living?” Illan Wurman is the author of A Debt Against the Living: An Introduction to Originalism. He will lead a discussion that addresses the title of his talk as well as the latest scholarship and problems of originalism.
Thomas Jefferson famously wrote that the earth belongs to the living. His letter to James Madison is often quoted for the proposition that we should not be bound to the “dead hand of the past,” suggesting that the Constitution should instead be interpreted as a living, breathing document. Less well known is Madison’s response, in which he said that the Constitution forms a debt against the living, who take the benefit of it. This debt, Madison claimed, could only be discharged by a kind of originalism. Who is right? Thomas Jefferson or James Madison?