Understanding the Constitution part II As a Constitutional reawakening takes place across the nation renewing the debate of it’s meaning and intent, it is important that we try to understand not only the document, but the ideas behind it, so we can make better sense of the arguments on both sides.
Did you know that what we think of as our “Constitutional Rights” are really our “Natural Rights” some of which are enumerated in the Bill of Rights? From the preamble to the Bill of Rights you find:
Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent starts of its institution.
In other-words the people who ratified the Constitution did not trust the Federal Government, and wanted written assurances that they were not replacing a despotic government in England for one on their own continent. Some examples of these rights:
The rights to; self government, self defense, own property, freedom of expression, peacefully assemble, enter into contracts, enjoy the fruits of one’s labour.
These are but a few of the rights Jefferson was talking about when he mentioned “unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence, and the beliefs that sparked the American Revolution, and they reflect the feelings of those who ratified the Constitution. They remain unchanged by advancements in technology or the increased pace of society. As you look at both sides of the debate, look at the distribution of power behind each of the arguments, and you will know which side is just, and which side just wants more power. I will close with one of my favorite quotes:
“Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.” James Madison
Something to think about the next time you hear about our “living constitution” that evolves as society evolves.