16 / CHRONICLESndemurred from this proposition. But is it not obviously truenthat the intent of the Constitution is a historical question?nThat is to say, questions of “original intent” are mostnproperly answered, not by legal reasoning and legal tradition,nnor by abstract speculation on democratic philosophynor individual “rights,” but by reference to the historicalnrecord.nIn emphasizing the historical record there are two thingsnI am not saying. I am not suggesting, in the manner ofnCharles Beard, that there is some secret dirty story to benferreted out by historians. Nor am I saying that onlynprofessional historians can be allowed to put the Constitutionnin context, for any intelligent person may make a validnhistorical observation.nIf we do not rely on legal interpretation to discern thenintent of the Constitution nor on the specialist knowledge ofnhistorians nor on philosophical speculation (however relevantnany of these may be in a subordinate sense), what donwe rely on? We rely on history, and history, if it is not anspecialist’s but a people’s history, is exactly what we meannby tradition—a widely shared understanding handed downnfrom generation to generation.nA people’s history may well embody some mythologicalnelements (like the Founders’ abolitionism) and some evolutionaryndevelopments (like reinterpretation of some basicnpoints in the Civil War) because popular traditions arennever precisely accurate in the specialisfs sense. But afternall, the Constitution rests upon the consent of the people.nAnd it is therefore, in the final analysis, the people whonhave a right to determine its intent. If we argue that this is anperilous or unworkable doctrine, then we are merelyndeclaring that democracy and federalism are unacceptable.nOf course, if we accept this proposition, our problems arenonly beginning (I can hear the cries of “simplistic!”), for wenare still faced with the task of translating the people’snunderstanding, which is a tacit thing, into the establishednmechanisms of government. This would seem to requirenthe services of a statesman who, in Andrew Lytle’s definition,nhas the mission of clarifying for a given people theirnalternatives. Since we have no statesmen, then perhaps thenbest we can do is get the best judges we can find and trustnthem. This, indeed, has been the position of most of thosenwho have thought of themselves as conservatives throughnthis century, though it cannot be considered a resoundinglynsuccessful strategy.nThe defenders of “original intent” argue with ability andnearnestness and morality and sense. But the Constitutionnthey defend is not the federal republican instrument ratifiednin 1787-1788. It is the one invented and refounded in thenmiddle of the 19th century by democratic nationalists tonaccompany and foster the development of a commercialnrepublic, a Constitution under which lawyers formed annaristocracy, an impulse which Tocqueville observed at worknin its early stages. As the world goes, that Constitution,ncompared to the one invented by the Supreme Court in thenmiddle of the 20th century, will serve us just fine if (a bign”if”) we can get it back. Unlike our current model, it didnnot violate the essential principles of republicanism andnfederalism.nI am inclined to think that the Kramers, men of anothernage, would be profoundly uncomfortable with the state ofnour society today. But, being creative realists, and observingnthe ill fit between the Constitution and our society and thenmisuses to which the Constitution has been put, they mightnwell conclude that we ought to follow their example andnmake a new Constitution, more in keeping with ournaspirations, even though they would doubt that we had thenwisdom and virtue to build as well as they.nA DIKE TO FENCE OUT THE FLOODnby M.E. BradfordnThe Ratification of the Constitution in MassachusettsnWhen in September of 1787 the new instrument ofngovernment proposed by the Great Convention wentnout from Philadelphia to be received and considered by thenseveral commonwealths connected through the old Articlesnof Confederation, those fraternally affiliated societies sawnthe document delivered to them through the ContinentalnCongress according to their own needs and purposes—outnof their distinctive histories and established political dispositions.nIn other words, working from their respective mythsnof themselves as Americans of a special kind, as Federalistsnor Anti-Federalists, the spokesmen of these societies sawnin the prospect of a more perfect Union implicationsnM.E. Bradford is professor or English at the University ofnDallas and author most recently of Remembering WhonWe Are: Observations of a Southern Conservativen(University of Georgia Press).nnnvery dissimilar from those discovered by like-mindednindividuals—persons agreed with them in supporting ornopposing the Constitution in other states. Amid the varietynof these responses, that of Massachusetts, in both itsnFederalism and Anti-Federalism, is distinctive in severalnrespects. Moreover, what was observed concerning thenConstitution in the state ratification convention whichnbegan in Boston on January 9, 1788, was as detailed, asnrepresentative of the essentially local politics which producednit, and as thought-provoking as any record ofndeliberations at this level generated by the great process ofnlawgiving—of Constitution-making—which has survivednto us from those momentous times: a copious and inclusivenproceeding, the outcome of which was in doubt almost tonthe moment of its decision in favor of a revision of thennational bond.nIt is possible to take the text of the Massachusettsnratification and read it as a completed action, a formalnstructure with complication, peripeteia, and dramaticnresolution—in other words, as a literary whole. And by textnI mean here the 1856 edition oiDebates and Proceedings inn