Long before four score and seven years ago, our Founding Fathers debated the true powers given to government by the United States Constitution. The two contrasting legal philosophies of Constitutional interpretation, strict and loose constructionism, have both been supported by some of the greatest political philosophers to impact the growth of our nation. Strict constructionism of the Constitution focuses only on the direct meaning of its written text, while loose constructionism allows for a more flexible approach to the Constitution, one that favors implied inferences and natural assumptions of power (as cited in Wikipedia, 2014, para. 2). While some political scholars support strict ...view middle of the document...
When it was clear that this type of governance was not pertinent to the demands of the country, the founders once again gathered around the table to draft the new Constitution, one that granted federal government with a little more power over its people.
With the intentions of creating a strong central government, the framers of the new Constitution were very susceptible to two opposing sides of outside influence, those who supported the old Articles of Confederation and those who favored the new Constitution. As a result, heated controversy was brought about amongst the American people as well, and there seemed to be an evenly split sentiment in regards to the new Constitution. The Federalists, American activists for a strong central government, found themselves competing with the Anti-Federalists, proponents of the Articles and strong, separate state institutions (Beard, 2004). Each side brought forth equally convincing arguments with credible evidence, and special conferences to compromise the two sides would sometimes last for days. After a passionate but tedious period of debate, however, the Federalists proved victorious. The new Constitution was ratified by the existing states to conjoin the separate institutions within the country and, most importantly, created a new governance to “form a more perfect Union” (Brown, 2013, para. 1).
Considering the intentions of the original framers of the Constitution and the surrounding eighteenth-century circumstances that influenced them, people may wonder if the same piece of governing legislation created almost 230 years ago should be strictly applied to today’s modern society. In other words, should government officials interpret the Constitution by what its text strictly defines, or should they also refer to the flexible implications of the Constitution when implementing the law?
For centuries, a number of prominent political thinkers have reprimanded “loose” Constitutional interpretation in favor of strict interpretation in thinking that it seizes judicial activism from court proceedings. When looking at a particular piece of constitutional text, strict constructionists derive their interpretations without making outside inferences or reasonable implications. Using this method of interpretation, some argue, judges are barred from making biased or personally satisfying decisions in court. Strictly abiding by the Constitutional text provides simple and accurate criteria for the judiciary to make neutral, legitimate rulings. Therefore, strict constructionism forces judicial officials to act merely as enforcers of the Constitutional law without implementing their often unwelcome and biased opinions.
For instance, the Dred Scott v. Sandford U.S. Supreme Court case of 1857 is a prominent example of a loose constructionist judge combining his own prejudices with natural law to make an “unfair” decision. Dred Scott, an African American slave in the United States, had been...