The following question is inspired by a point made by Justice Breyer in the following link, but Justice Scalia did not specifically address this point, so I wondered how an originalist would address it.
The following example will follow USA law-approving process, but the answer may be applied to every nation.
The following questions should be answered using an "originalist" mode of law interpretation.
Suppose the 1st of January 2000 the following law is enacted by Congress and signed by the President:
No one can kill an animal belonging to an endangered species.
Whoever kills an animal belonging to an endangered species will be punished with 20 years in jail.
The 2nd of January 2000 a national poll is conducted. The poll has a 100% coverage (every american is interviewed and every american responds). The poll asks the intervieweds "is a red squirrel an endangered species?". Everybody responds "no". I hope that, by this expedient, I have fixed the original public meaning of the statute.
The 2nd of January 2020 (20 years later), another poll is conducted. Same question, 100% coverage, everybody now responds "yes". The public meaning has changed (right?).
In fact, there are now very few red squirrels: in the past 20 years, the meat of the red squirrel was found to be very tasty, or the fur very fashion, and so on. In particular, there are 2 red squirrels in all the USA, one male and one female, so we are still in time to save the species.
- The 3rd of January 2020 I kill one of the two red squirrels remaining. Will I go to jail for 20 years?
If the answer to (1) is "no", I am satisfied. Thank you.
If the answer to (1) is "yes" (I will go to jail), I have a follow-up question.
- a. Suppose, for the sake of the argument, that on the 15th of December 1791 (the day the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted), nobody thought the death penalty was cruel and unusual. This is what Justice Scalia thinks (at 14:27).
b. In the law enacted the 2nd of January 2000 (the one about the endangered species), the punishment for killing an endangered species is death.
c. In the 2nd of January 2020 poll (20 years later), after the question "Is a red squirrel an endangered species?" (which everybody answer with a "yes"), there is the question "is the death penalty cruel and unusual?" to which everybody responds "yes".
d. The 3rd of January 2020 I kill a red squirrel. Will I be subject to the death penalty?
With an originalist perspective, you should answer 2d with a "yes". It doesn't matter that the public meaning has changed, you need a formal amendment to the Constitution. Then, why you answered "yes" to question 1? Why it did matter in question 1 that the public meaning has changed?
Sorry if I make confusion.