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Monday, October 19, 2015

Against a strict construction of constitutional powers

When reading Hamilton on the Constitution, it is a good idea to recall the wise observation of Russell Kirk that original intent does not always = strict construction. On this point, most modern conservatives part ways with both Kirk & Hamilton when it comes to reading our nation's fundamental charter.
[T]he powers contained in a constitution of government, especially those which concern the general administration of the affairs of a country, its finances, trade, defense, etc., ought to be construed liberally in advancement of the public good. This rule does not depend on the particular form of a government, or on the particular demarcation of the boundaries of its powers, but on the nature and object of government itself. The means by which national exigencies are to be provided for, national inconveniences obviated, national prosperity promoted, are of such infinite variety, extent, and complexity, that there must of necessity be great latitude of discretion in the selection and application of those means. Hence, consequently, the necessity and propriety of exercising the authorities intrusted [sic] to a government on principles of liberal construction. 
- Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States, 1791.

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