“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.”
These words are the opening lines of the United States Constitution, the greatest foundational document ever created in the history of mankind.
Despite many challenges over the years, the Constitution is still here and so are the people from whom the document draws its power.
That is why, now more than ever, it is important to celebrate Constitution Day. The attacks on our founding charter are relentless, and it is up to us who cherish the document to educate the next generation about the importance of it, because our schools and universities are failing to do so.
WE THE PEOPLE
On this day in 1787, the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia came to a close. After several grueling months of debate and countless revisions, the delegates signed their names to the document and sent it to the states for ratification.
The document would become the supreme law of the land on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify it.
The states may have agreed to ratify the Constitution, but their vote was contingent on the inclusion of a Bill of Rights to protect their Liberties.
In the first Congress, James Madison introduced twelve amendments to be voted on by the body.
Ten of the amendments—which became known as the Bill of Rights—were passed through Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the states.
One of Madison’s original amendments was not ratified by the states until 1992 after the grassroots efforts of an American student who wrote a college paper on the unpassed amendment then took it upon himself to lobby the remaining states needed to ratify the amendment.
Madison reflected on the difficulties that the founders faced when trying to craft a governing “constitution. In the Federalist Papers (No.51) Madison wrote the following:
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
The founders were concerned with one issue over any other: who had the power?
The Framers were well-read in the history of past failed civilizations and republics and knew that decentralizing power was pivotal in preventing the United States from suffering a similar fate.
They were inspired by French Philosopher Charles de Montesquieu’s theory of separation of powers, an idea that gave birth to the three branches our government has today.
The powers of each branch prevent one or both of the other branches from becoming too powerful. The Senate had equal representation amongst the state and the Senators from each state were to be appointed in each state legislature.
However, that was no longer the case after the 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of Senators by a public vote.
The House of Representatives was to be the most direct link between a citizen and the federal government. Each representative was to be elected from districts and was supposed to directly express the will of the local population, giving his constituents a say in the affairs of the national government.
Although the branches of the federal government were supposed to be co-equal, it was well known that the Founders put an emphasis on the Legislature over the other two branches.
The Executive branch was to be led by the president of the United States. His main duties were to be the commander-in-chief of the military, head of state, and to enforce laws that Congress passed and the president signed.
But Times Have Changed…
The Framers of the constitution would be appalled to see the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the office of the presidency today. They would likely scoff at the monarchial treatment that the president—no matter who he is or what party he came from—receives.
They would also be outraged by the size of the federal bureaucracy and the use of executive orders to institute de facto laws that don’t have to get approval from Congress.
The Judiciary was given the least amount of attention in the Constitution. It simply said that there was to be one Supreme Court and the lower courts would be established by the Congress of the United States.
However, the Judicial branch has amassed more power than was originally intended.
Activist judges have become de facto lawmakers themselves and the original intent of the Framers takes a backseat to political whims and bogus precedents.
The federal government has run over the states on many fronts. The states were originally intended to be co-equal partners with the federal government.
After all, it was the states that created the federal government, not the other way around.
In Federalist 45, Madison wrote, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined…[and] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
Translation: The Federal government was to have a limited role compared to the individual states.
Unfortunately, in modern times, the Federal Government has surpassed the power of the state governments.
Legacy Of The Constitution
The Constitution is the best document ever devised to govern a free people. It is by no means perfect and required compromise to finish. Sadly, slavery was never banned in the document (although the slave trade itself was set to be ended in 1808, yet slavery persisted.) There were no congressional term limits or budget constraints, something our country could certainly use nowadays.
Benjamin Franklin admitted that the document wasn’t perfect when he spoke on the final day of the Constitutional Convention.
He told those in attendance that “I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them.”
The Founders left the document to posterity, charging their descendants with protecting it.
The Constitution, though imperfect, has nonetheless held this republic together for 234 years.
If we fail to teach our children about the principles enshrined in the Constitution and why they are necessary, it is unlikely that this country will last another 234 years.
Liberty requires virtue and a well-informed populace.
Unfortunately, our schools and universities are dropping the ball and our youth are not learning what it means to be an American.
Legend has it that upon leaving the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin was asked what sort of government the delegates had created.
Franklin replied: “A republic…if you can keep it.”
The duty of preserving the republic is up to WE THE PEOPLE.
Let’s make sure we do the job correctly.