Constitutional Terms Over The Centuries

December 16th, 2010

I am having fun with Google’s new Ngram Viewer. This program allows you to check the prevalence and popularity of various terms over the years. I have inputted several popular constitutional terms.

Substantive Due Process, contrary to popular belief, did not begin during the Lochner era. In fact the term didn’t come into the vernacular until the middle of the 20th Century. This graph illustrates that nicely.

Curiously, the term living constitution, often thought to be a product of the Warren Court, has been in common use for quite some time.

Is reliance on legislative history a recent phenomenon, or did it begin much earlier? Would it too much of a stretch to note the decline correlates to Justice Scalia’s ascension to the bench? ‘Nah.

The term bear arms seems to have peaked in the 1640s, which roughly corresponds to the English Civil War. It also peaked around the revolutionary era.

This is way too much fun.