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What does "letter" mean in this context?

 
 
Reply Wed 22 Feb, 2017 11:14 am
"could even give the President de facto legislative authority in altering the law which could violate the principles, and perhaps even the letter, of the Constitution"

Does it just mean words?

Thanks!
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layman
 
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Reply Wed 22 Feb, 2017 11:17 am
@perennialloner,
perennialloner wrote:

"could even give the President de facto legislative authority in altering the law which could violate the principles, and perhaps even the letter, of the Constitution"

Does it just mean words?

Thanks!


In this context the "letter" of the constitution is being contrasted with the "spirit" (what this author calls "the principles") of the constitution.

It means something like "read literally."

Does that make sense to you? If not I could say more.
perennialloner
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Feb, 2017 11:41 am
@layman,
Yes, it makes sense. Thank you. So it can mean "literal reading"?
layman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Feb, 2017 11:51 am
@perennialloner,
perennialloner wrote:

Yes, it makes sense. Thank you. So it can mean "literal reading"?


Yes. Which can differ from a reasonable reading.

For example: A statute may say that any vehicle exceeding the posted speed limit is guilty of a violation. That is the literal reading (what the words actually say).

But we don't give traffic tickets to ambulances, or to cops who are attempting to catch up with a criminal.

The have violated the "letter" of the statute, but not it's implicit exceptions. They have not violated the "spirit" of the law.

Likewise, the commandment saying "Thou shalt not kill" wasn't intended to mean that you can't shoot a rattlesnake that is about to strike you, or a duck that you need to eat for your next meal.
perennialloner
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Feb, 2017 12:09 pm
@layman,
I know what literal means. I didn't know what letter meant.

Thanks for the clarification.
layman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Feb, 2017 12:56 pm
@perennialloner,
You're quite welcome, Perry.
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