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09/28/2021

David Schwartz: The Committee of Style and the Federalist Constitution
Michael Ramsey

David S. Schwartz (University of Wisconsin Law School) has posted The Committee of Style and the Federalist Constitution (70 Buffalo Law Review (forthcoming 2022)) (52 pages) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 

The conventional interpretation of the Constitution assumes that the Committee of Style, which created the final draft of the Constitution, lacked authority to engage with substance; therefore, any arguably substantive changes it did make should be disregarded in favor of earlier draft language found in the Constitutional Convention records. This "Style doctrine" has been embraced by the Supreme Court and several leading constitutional scholars. This article argues that the Style doctrine is historically unfounded and obscures the Constitution's original meaning. The Committee of Style was not prohibited from proposing substantive changes. In any case, most of the revisions proposed by the Committee of Style clarified or reinforced Federalist positions rather than proposing substantive changes. Ultimately, the Style doctrine is an artifact of post-ratification developments tending to disregard elements of the more nationalistic constitutional vision of the Federalist Framers.

I agree, at least to the extent of agreeing that the "Style doctrine" is misplaced.  Just because the Committee of Style wasn't supposed to change the substance doesn't mean it didn't.  But I also think if you are worrying a lot about what Committee wrote what, you are getting too lost in the details of the Convention (details that weren't known to most people a the time, and which are probably ambiguous at best in what they suggest about meaning).