The notion that a jurisprudence of "original intent" will constrain the discretion of judges who seek to impose their own policy preferences on the law has often been attributed to a speech delivered by Edwin Meese, then-Attorney General of the United States, to an American Bar Association audience on July 9, 1985. In that speech the Attorney General was particularly critical of Supreme Court opinions relying on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as a basis for requiring the states to adhere to specific provisions of the Bill of Rights. "[N]owhere else [he said,] has the principle of federalism been dealt so politically violent and constitutionally suspect a blow as by the theory of incorporation."' He endorsed then-Justice Rehnquist's dissenting statement in Wallace v. Jaffree that "it is impossible to build sound constitutional doctrine upon a mistaken understanding of constitutional history." It was after criticizing what he regarded as the Court's misuse of history that Meese announced that it would be the policy of the Reagan Administration to press for a "Jurisprudence of Original Intention": "Those who framed the Constitution chose their words carefully; they debated at great length the most minute points. The language they chose meant something. It is incumbent upon the Court to determine what that meaning was. This is not a shockingly new theory; nor is it arcane or archaic."
Stevens, Justice John P. (Ret.)
"Originalism and History,"
Georgia Law Review: Vol. 48:
3, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/glr/vol48/iss3/2