CUP Undergraduate Research


The Originalist Reaction: The Rise Of Constitutional Originalism As A Response To Rapid Social Change In The US

Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2018

Document Type

Restricted Access Thesis


College of Arts & Sciences



Degree Name

History, BA

First Advisor

Joel Davis, Ph.D.


It is commonly understood by the American populous that the Constitution is the law of the land, we base our understanding of many of our state laws in regard to whether or not they are “constitutional.” What the general American populous may not know, is how the actual document of the Constitution is applied to cases or legal holdings. Especially in today’s political climateit is increasingly clear that there are sections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that need to be reexamined. There are major debates surrounding the cases, which argue controversial issues such as god, guns, and gays. It is clear that the current social morality is influencing many court decisions. This cultural shift, known as originalism, causes an issue with the legal jurisprudence that revolves around the Constitution. This is a relatively recent term that describes the way of interpreting the Constitution as the framers would have intended. It is the intent of this paper to help inform those who are interested in viewing the Constitution through an originalist perspective. This will be done by first defining the term originalism, then explaining the historical context from which this definition emerged, and finally describing the translation of the definition into the modern context in order to help inform the reader on how to better understand the legal debates today.

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