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Faith in Government

The strikingly divergent opinions of the Founders.

May 17, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 33 • By RYAN T. ANDERSON
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For those who take constitutional republicanism seriously, the critical consideration is what We the People agreed to when we ratified the Constitution. Washingtonian, Jeffersonian, and Madisonian philosophies, as such, were never up for ratification. And it is implausible that the citizens of the early republic, or their representatives, were consenting to any of these philosophies. Clearly, for example, Americans eschewed Madisonian noncognizance when they demanded that President Madison declare “a day of public humiliation and fasting and of prayer to Almighty God,” or when they hired state-funded military and congressional chaplains. One must investigate, rather, the principles that the citizens understood themselves to be endorsing when they ratified the Constitution: If one doesn’t like the results, one can change the Constitution through the agreed-upon measures. Anything less fails to take constitutional republicanism—or the people’s right to self-determination—seriously.

Twice, Munoz suggests that he is sensitive to this criticism, promising to explore the original meaning of the First Amendment in his next study. That forthcoming volume will be important—especially since claiming the Founders as a whole for one’s side may be not only irrelevant to sound jurisprudence but, as Munoz shows us here, impossible as well.

Ryan T. Anderson is editor of the website forum Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good.

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