|Constitution and Civility|
|by Wes Riddle||Mon, Jan 23, 2012, 11:07 AM|
One of several important breakthroughs in political science our Founding Fathers achieved, is the establishment of an entirely new category of law; namely, the Constitution. The Constitution is the nation’s highest legal and moral authority—popularly accepted as such. Yet its ratification took place over 200 years ago, amongst a generation long since dead and gone. Charles Kesler, professor of government at
This is not a normal or an automatic outcome of popular government.
Most of the time, republics and the people who move their politics
tend to think that if they make a law “A” one day, and a law “B” that
contradicts “A” the next day, the newer law supersedes the old. What
is unusual about the Constitution is that this rule is completely reversed
in respect of it. The oldest law is the most authoritative, and is indeed
the only law that “the people” as such have ever passed. Other law is
statute law, law made by representatives of the people. Thus every
other law needs to be adjudged in light of the only law that is genuinely
ours, the Constitution.
Clearly, some would prefer that the Constitution evolve and stay up with the times. There is even a modern liberal legal theory that affirms a so-called “living Constitution.” This is another way of saying the Constitution means what lawyers and judges say it means.
Besides the Constitution as a category of law, the Founders also bequeathed an aspect of culture, which helped to give the Constitution stability and its impressive longevity. Historically a part of
Today I wonder about the Founders’ great handiwork. Though altered much, it has survived in large measure. But I worry as civility departs, because government has grown too big and too intrusive in matters belonging outside its scope. I worry as respect for the Constitution itself declines, when citizens fail to distinguish rights from their desires, and political expediency supplants principle. During the last presidential election, people were tempted to say the popular or consolidated national majority (pure democracy) should rule the day—even though the constitutional majority entails both democracy and federalism and is the only majority that may govern the
The foundation of our empire was not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance
and Superstition, but at an Epoch when the rights of mankind were better
understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period; the researches
of the human mind, after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent;
the Treasures of knowledge, acquired through a long succession of years, by
the labors of Philosophers, Sages and Legislatures, are laid open for our use,
and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our
forms of Government; the free cultivation of Letters, the unbounded extension
of Commerce, the progressive refinement of manners, the growing liberality
of sentiment, and above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation, have had
a meliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of Society. At
this auspicious period, the
their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and
written by Buckmeister , January 23, 2012
Thanks finally to a little history, showing the true nature of our founding fathers, in the foregoing words of Washington: "the growing liberality of sentiment". Today, the so-called conservatives call those who think liberaly as anbody who wants to get married, vs their hero, a guy who cheats on all his wives and leaves when they are diagnosed with MS, then talks about the sanctity of marriage. Such hypocracy knows no bounds. Now if we could only get them claiming one thing, like moral values or original intent, but doing the opposite, we might repeal the recent Supreme Court holding that Corporations [found nowhere in the Constitution] have mouths from which their "speech" is to be protected, so they can just buy their elections.
written by DP , February 06, 2012
Wow, thanks for the deep thoughts. My son, who is a junior and high school, has a deeper understanding of the constitution than is displayed in this article. Knowing a few buzz words like "living constitution" does not make you a constitutional scholar. I laugh at all the right-wingers these days who call themselves "constitutionalists" but who are merely projecting their own political beliefs into a document that they don't understand (and who criticize judges for doing the same). Early Americans and our founding fathers rejected the Articles of Confederation precisely because the central government was too weak with respect to the economy and foreign policy. In its place, they created a strong (but divided) federal government with express powers over the economy and foreign affairs and all powers "necessary and proper" for carrying out those powers. How does that square with your limited government political philosophy?