David Richards here argues the position that understanding the intent of the Founders is essential to the legal interpretation of the United States Constitution. To this extent he makes common cause with conservative constitutional theorists, but he arrives at conclusions that differ radically from theirs. Indeed, his stated project here is to `reclaim' the Founders intent on behalf of the liberal humanist tradition they embodied.
Richards examines the role of the Founders' understanding of history, philosophy, political theory, and political science in the evolution of their constitutional design. In his reconstruction, the Constitution emerges as a brilliant expression of European humanist and critical thought, shaped by such influences as the political ideas of Machiavelli, Harrington, Montesquieu, and Hume, the Lockean theory of legitimate government, and the common law model of interpretive practice.
Armed with this new understanding of the Founders' intent, Richards is able to fully develop the methodology of constitutional interpretation sketched in his earlier book, TOLERATION AND THE CONSTITUTION (OUP 1986), and uses it effectively to defend a liberal reading of constitutional guarantees of individual rights.