A review of Original Intent and the Framers of the Constitution by Harry Jafffa, (Regnery, 1994).
When Professor Harry Jaffa, in his new book Original Intent and the Framers of the Constitution: A Disputed Question, refers to Abraham Lincoln as the “greatest interpreter of the Founding Fathers,” one must wonder whose Founding Fathers he has in mind. From the outset of his work, Professor Jaffa renders a version of history that places Lincoln, Madi¬on and Jefferson on one side while “Calhoun and Marx stand upon identical theoretical ground” on the other side.
Professor Jaffa, a former speechwriter for Barry Goldwater and disciple of natural-right proponent Leo Strauss, attempts to prove that the “self-evident truths” found in the Declaration of Independence take precedence over the text and compromises of the Constitution. Using what John Randolph called “metaphysical madness,” Professor Jaffa spends much of his book attacking the views of modern conservative legal theorists such as Judge Robert Bork and Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Professor Jaffa laments that the “chief intellectual progenitor” of these “self-styled conservatives” is not “the father of the Constitution, James Madison . . . but John C. Calhoun.” Professor Jaffa describes Rehnquist as a man who “seems to think . . . Nazi or Bolshevik or (cannibal) law would result in the same ‘generalized moral rightness or goodness’ as the law of a constitutional democracy.” Because Rehnquist refuses to write his own opinions into law insofar as he adheres to precedent and the text of the Constitution, he is derided as a “moral skeptic” and a “legal positivist.”
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