Thursday, September 16, 2010

Constitution Day 2010

By Alan Caruba

I never read the United States Constitution without being astonished at the sheer beauty of this instrument of our government. Even so, the original text has been amended twenty-six times over the years since it became effective on June 21, 1788 when New Hampshire became the ninth State to ratify it.

On June 7, 1789, James Madison introduced the proposed Bill of Rights in the House of Representatives and, on December 15, 1791, Virginia ratified them, permitting ten of the twelve to become part of the U.S. Constitution.

On Friday, September 17, the nation will celebrate Constitution Day, but I suspect it will pass without much notice. Most Americans tend to take little notice of the Constitution most of the time.

A recent survey by the Center for the Constitution at Montpelier, James Madison’s home, reveals that, of those who responded to the survey, only 28% said they had read the entire Constitution; 14% said they had read most of it; and 33% said they had read some of it.

P.J. O’Rouke, an author and wit, has noted that “The U.S. Constitution is less than a quarter the length of the owner’s manual for a 1998 Toyota Camry, and yet it has managed to keep 300 million of the world’s most unruly, passionate and energetic people safe, prosperous and free.”

In addition to the nation’s current financial difficulties, we are passing through a period of significant unrest, not the least of all the result of having elected a President who gives every evidence of disliking the nation and Americans. He has very little good to say of us when addressing other nations.

As to the Constitution, President Obama has disparaged it saying it is merely "a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can't do to you. Says what the federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the federal govenment or state government must do on your behalf."

The framers, though, deliberately built in limits as to what Presidents and members of Congress can do because the founding fathers shared a deep concern regarding what occurs when power over people is put in the hands of anyone.

John Adams warned that “a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” He thought, too, that “Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”

The motto on Thomas Jefferson’s personal seal was “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

There are no sweeter words than “We the People of the United States…” and they say everything you need to know about the Constitution.

It is the oldest living Constitution of any modern nation. It is fretted about with the means to slow down the process of legislation, to thwart bad ideas and passions, to limit the power of the central government and devolve as much power as possible to the States, each of which is itself a sovereign republic.

Constitution Day is an especially good day to recall that the framers of the Constitution were intensely practical men. They lived in an era of monarchies and were intent on ensuring that they would leave a legacy of power to the People through a transparent process of national and bi-elections.

When George Washington made it known he would not stand for a third term, it established a pattern of presidential power that was only broken in the last century when Franklin Delano Roosevelt retained the office from 1933 to 1945. Only death removed him from it. Thereafter, the 22nd Amendment ensured that would not occur again.

Americans have been suffering from a legislative tyranny since President Obama, the leader of the majority party, the Democrats, took office. Vast majorities of Americans oppose Obamacare and other initiatives.

They have not been suffering passively. They have marched in the nation’s capitol. They organized Tea Parties. They are waiting for November 2nd to alter the face of Congress, electing people who think the federal government is too big and not to be trusted.

The framers of the Constitution would be proud of them and all other Americans who are patiently and passionately resisting those whom they deem enemies of the People.

© Alan Caruba, 2010


Ronbo said...

It must be noted that the U.S. Constitution is not a suicide pact. There is no such thing as an absolute right to say anything under freedom of speech, or the right to murder under the protection of freedom of religion.

Alan Caruba said...

Good point. I marvel that the Founders and earlier generations of Americans were so inspired by liberty that fought for it and sought to preserve it for later generations...who, in turn, protected it. Our is a nation born of an idea.

I fear sometimes that we have gone soft, but then something like the Tea Party, the election of people of character, occurs and I am renewed in my faith that Americans will meet any challange.

Longstreet said...

GREAT, Alan!