by Dr. Lawrence Wilson

© November 2019, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.




The doctrine of original intent means that what matters in government is not simply the words of the Declaration Of Independence, Constitutions and other government documents.  The intent of the founders also matters.

Original intent has to do with the founders’ thought process and how the founders arrived at their conclusions, as opposed to just considering their words or actions.

The legal doctrine of original intent is a high level legal principle needed to guide any successful nation or society.

Thus, when any public servant in the United States takes an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution Of The United States, he or she must do so in accordance with the original intent of the founders of the nation.

Also, the daily actions and words of public servant in the United States must not only be in accordance with the written laws of the nation, but also with the intent of the founders. 

This concept is absolutely essential to the continuance of the nation.  The founders of the nation could not possibly anticipate every situation that would arise in the future.  However, they laid out certain principles that can and should forever guide our decisions and conduct.

Sadly, the doctrine of original intent has been ignored and twisted for at least 180 years in America.  This is the direct cause of the decline in the vitality of the nation.




The Principles or Sources:


            1. A main source of the founders’ wisdom and guidance was the Hebrew and Christian Bibles.

            Their intent was to establish a nation “in the image of God”.  For example, they loved the Ten Commandments of Moses and the Golden Rule.  They also understood the importance of daily prayer in order to receive proper guidance in all matters.

They also knew that their human efforts would fall short, but they hoped and prayed that any shortcomings would slowly be overcome by applying the doctrine of original intent and then amending the Constitution to correct any deficiencies it might contain.

Based upon this source, the doctrine of original intent would not permit such “modern” interpretations of the Constitution as permitting homosexual marriage, banning prayer in government schools and elsewhere, and giving women the right to murder the childen in her womb (the word abortion is a euphemism that does not convey the horror of killing innocent and helpless children).

            2. A second source of wisdom and guidance was an intense study of history.  In particular, they studied the history of governments and nations on earth for as long as history has been recorded. 

For example, the notion of having nine Supreme Court justices came from the Native American tribes who often had a nine-member council of elders.   Their system seemed to work very well.  Too few or too many council members, they said, did not work as well.

Many recent Supreme Court decisions would not get approval based upon history, such as giving the government more control over health care and the economy and restricting the people’s right to defend themselves with weapons.  These, in fact, are classic methods used by tyrants to control the people.


3. A third source of wisdom and guidance was the writings of British enlightenment philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries.   Prominent among them were John Locke and Adam Smith.  These men emphasized:

- The primacy and sovereignty of the individual Citizen, rather than the sovereignty of the state (statism).  This includes the importance of personal liberty and self-government.  Abraham Lincoln captured this idea when he wrote about “government of the People, by the People and for the People”.

- The role of the state or government as protector of the rights of the Citizens, rather than the government as “ruler of the people”.

- The absolute necessity for limited government.  This means a government with specified or enumerated powers, and no others.  They realized that the larger the government, the less liberty for the Citizens.

- Liberty in the economic area of life and the self-correcting and amazing benefits of economic liberty, known today as free market economics or capitalism.

- The concept of government with the consent of the governed.  If a government no longer serves the people, it must be changed or abolished.

As a result, they would not look kindly on the modern overreach of the American government.  The US Constitution forbids the national government:

- to set up welfare and retirement systems

- to set up a regulatory state,

- to interfere in health care and medical research

- to interfere in education

- to interfere in agriculture, housing, and dozens of other areas in which the national and other governments now dominate or exercise significant control in America.


Resulting Doctrines:


Government is force and, for this reason, that government is best which governs least.


Self-government requires a virtuous and well-informed Citizenry.


The importance of religion in a free society. They knew that if the people do not control their own behavior, the state must interfere and do it for them.


Enumerated Powers.  This means that the functions of the government must be spelled out or enumerated.


The fully informed and fully empowered jury.


Federalism, or the decentralization of government functions to the state, county, and local levels.  (This word now has the opposite meaning, but the original meaning was as stated above).


Separation Of Powers.  This is the idea that there will be three equally powerful branches of government – the legislative, executive and judicial branches.  No one branch may usurp the power of the others.


For more examples of original intent, read The Passing Of Judge Scalia And The Future Of The Supreme Court.




The doctrine applies to all legislators at all levels of government, all judges, all members of the executive branch of government, and indeed to all government employees.



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