Our Constitution is made up only of language. And language is merely a frail collection of words.
That’s true, no matter how brilliantly the words are written. Yet, given America’s military power that frail collection of words is the only thing that stands between us and what could potentially become the most unimaginable and tyrannical force the world has ever seen. Does that mean we should be afraid to change the US Constitution?
Our constitution is not the source and cause of our freedom! Thomas Jefferson certainly didn’t think so:
Where, then, is our republicanism to be found? Not in our Constitution certainly, but merely in the spirit of our people. … (Jefferson 1816)
And another writer expanded that idea:
We are given to attributing our liberty to the securities of a constitution. No greater mistake could be made. The traditions of English liberty which the forefathers brought to this country … have been the source of our liberties. The Constitution is simply the measure of the rights delegated by the people to their governmental agents, and secures them practically no rights which they did not have before its enactment. (Pierce 1908, 309-10)
We are not free because of our Constitution. Rather, we have our Constitution because we are free. So should we be free to change the US Constitution as we please?
Jefferson said yes:
Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them, like the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well…. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book reading. (Jefferson 1816)
Even Abraham Lincoln did not hold the Constitution as sacred:
This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. (Lincoln 1861)
The only way to change our government would be to change the US Constitution that defines it.
And as Senator Tom Coburn put it, “the greatest threat to the continuity of our form of government is our government itself.” (Coburn 2003, XIX)
We all know that our government works by such methods as political theater and pork-barrel politics. But as children we were all taught an idealized history. However, an in-depth study into history shows that our government has worked mostly the same as now from its beginning. Human nature has always been human nature.
And most other governments are even more corrupt than ours.
Do you think we could make our government work better? Does the thought of changing our system frighten you? It should! But it should be clear that America has been coming off the rails for a long time.
How would you change the US Constitution? Would you rewrite the it, amend it, or leave it alone?
This site is for discussing how to improve our political system. It is NOT for discussing party politics or political figures. So if you have a non-partisan question or comment, feel free to leave it below.
Coburn, Tom A. 2003. Breach of Trust. Nashville, TN: WND Books.
Jefferson, Thomas. 1816. “Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 8 October 1816,” Founders Online, National Archives, version of January 18, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-10-02-0309. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, vol. 10, May 1816 to 18 January 1817, ed. J. Jefferson Looney. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013, pp. 435–436.]
Lincoln, Abraham. 1861. First Inaugural Address. http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/1inaug.htm (Accessed Feb. 20, 2016).
Pierce, Franklin. 1908. Federal Usurpation. New York: D. Appleton and Company.