Although Constitution Day has passed for this year, the article below contains important ideas for us to remember every day of the year. Thank you to Al Terwelp of Overbrook for authoring this submission. I apologize for missing it on Constitution Day.
Thoughts on Constitution Day
Today, September 17, is a little-remembered date in Kansas and arguably a day that eclipses even Independence Day in significance. On this day in 1787, occurred the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Not since the Magna Carta, (June 15, 1215) had there been such a progression by the purpose, mind and hand of mankind to peacefully join together to complete for themselves and their heirs guarantees of security against oppression.
After the Revolutionary War was newly won our infant nation soon became adrift. Shey’s Rebellion in 1786 was evidence that we needed to jealously protect liberty and build a strong self government requiring secure checks and balances. The founders wanted a Republic ruled by law and purposefully avoided the tyranny of a superior few found in a monarchy or oligarchy and the overbearing force of the mob majority in a democracy.
Unsatisfied with the Constitution’s original shortcomings and flaws, in 1789 anti-federalists and James Madison would introduce additional safeguards to the rights of man in a series of ten articles known as the Bill of Rights and would ultimately lead to the successfully completed ratification of the Constitution in 1790. Our Constitution has since been continually improved by a total of 27 amendments and has survived many challenges to become a near perfect example of governance and reference to human conduct. The result is the most unlikely, rare, opportunity and achievement in the chronicle of humankind.
The American State Papers, (Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Constitution, Bill of Rights, Amendments), are a clearly written exhibition of the virtues given to us by our creator. This acquired and instilled virtue is infused via the action of our Constitutional laws thus additionally preserving and fostering it in our citizens. No government through its temporal laws can make good citizens. We have free will. Neither was the Constitution’s intention to create laws that forbid all vices in men. Why should it. Our Constitution does however, dictate reason and facilitate the virtue by which we chose to be governed thus habitualizing good behavior in the people.
Lovers of liberty see the virtue in our founding documents and the advantage that exists in being obedient to reason. The Constitution’s chain of reasoning serves as our foundation of principles and the intellectual origins which guide the destinies of our lives. Like the Ten Commandments, the Constitution provides us knowledge that proceeds from theoretical deduction and gives us simple black and white reference points to be used as a compass star to pilot a world of complex, confusing, gray issues.
The Constitution and the other state papers are also established and accepted statements of a new system of knowledge. One based not only on legal rights and human laws but on natural rights, natural laws and their demonstrated conclusions. All people are born with these universal rights and they are not contingent on human law or acquired from government. These are the truths that Jefferson held to be self-evident and unalienable. These endorsements of truth give us not only knowledge about a belief, but continually communicate to us when to hold a belief to be true. This unsurrenderable document that framed laws by men not perfect in virtue is much more than a contract from which government limits and derives its authority. Its words ultimately bind us in conscience from a higher eternal law.