Editor's Note: This Essay is Part IV of an exchange between Professors Seth Barrett Tillman and Zephyr Teachout on public corruption, policy, and the scope of the constitutional anti-corruption principle. Part I of the exchange is available here, Part II is available here, and Part III is available here.
What was the purpose of the American Constitution? What was it made to do by those who made it? This question—which might be at the center of constitutional theory—is not explicitly asked as often as one might think. Instead, it frequently takes a backseat to other questions about the appropriate mode of constitutional interpretation or the specific purposes of particular texts. And yet it is an important question. How did the Framers (and then the second Framers, the amenders) imagine their own purposes? What are legitimate ways to determine their purposes? Most importantly, for the purposes of this colloquy, should their general purposes in constitutional design have any bearing on how courts review the constitutionality of congressional activity?