8/21/2007

Individualists Unite!!!

"I am a man who does not exist for others."

Howard Roark



"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... laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind... as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, institutions must advance also, to keep pace with the times.... We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain forever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

Thomas Jefferson
(on reform of the Virginia Constitution)

8 comments:

cato said...

Usually you get a new coat and not pretend that the old coat can magically grow; you change with the times, yes, but you need to actually change the document. Jefferson liked amendments.

Sunny Badger said...

Do you suppose that Jefferson, one of the main writers of the Constitution, would have expect the Constitution to be a living document? He didn't strike me as a fundementalist who believed the first words of the Founding Fathers would be all we needed. Constitutionalists strike me as having fundementalist Christian who believe the Bible is the beginning and end of all we need to know.

Anonymous said...

Sunny B,

Jefferson was in France from 1784 to 1789 -- negotiating the final peace accords with Britain --and as such had no role in the drafting or ratification of the US Constitution.

You are also confused as to how strict constructionalists view constitutional change. This approach does not advocate static and unchanging law; rather, it emphasizes popular and democratic change through the amendment process. Amending the constitution -- a process built in to the document and something that has been done some 27 times, has resulted in the abolition of slavery, black enfranchisement, female suffrage, the legalization of the income tax, and a host of other major and minor modifications to our basic law.

What strict construction is not about is constitutional change through judicial acts or fiats. That is to say, when judges can change our basic law by rulings from the bench -- rulings based not on law or statute, but on the personal policy preferences of the judges -- then we move from the realm of rule of law to rule of men.

Judges rule on the law, they do not make the law.

cato said...

Sunny,

Jefferson had nothing to do with the Constitution, let alone "one of the main writers". Hell, he was an Anti-Federalist! I have no idea where you could possibly come up with that he was one of the "main writers of the Constitution". Please pick up a 3rd grade history book and try again. I think even public school's textbooks would mention this, as he was the writer of the Declaration of Independence as well as a future President and therefore notably absent during the Constitution's writing. Furthermore, I am not sure where this Christian stuff and Bible comes from. Again, perhaps you need 3rd grade history book.

Jefferson felt that states could trump the Federal government (if the power was not given than a state could (and should) void it). And he wasn't for "evolving" the law with magically granting the federal government NEW powers without actually giving them to the government.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN2VqFPNS8w

Sunny Badger said...

Cato:

WikiAnsswers said:

"The U.S. Constitution is the work of several men, directly and indirectly. The three most notable Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Thomas Paine. The group of men involved in the writing of the Constitution are generally referred to as the "founding fathers".

Of course, this is wrong information and is corrected later to point out:

"Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was in France as a dipolmat during the Constitional Convention."

Do you really think a third grade history book would give me this answer? How am I supposed to remember every detail I had in grade school nearly half a century ago. Let's say Jefferson was a major member of the group we call the Founding Fathers and, whether or not he was in France at the time, no doubt he communicated with the writers of those involved in writing the Constitution. Likewise, John Adams would have been doing the same time.

Since James Madison was a political protégé of Jefferson, it would sense that Jefferson influenced what went into the Constitution.

I stand corrected on Jefferson being a main writer. I being a human can misspeak and an occasional get a fact wrong. Understanding that myself -- along with the rest of the human race -- is not perfect has disqualified me from becoming a libertarian.

cato said...

wikipedia = fail

Wikipedia's place is for a very general, possibly biased understanding of any given topic and should not be used to actually look anything up. But if I say "I like Melville's works" and you didn't know who Melville is, you could quickly check there. Ahh, the author of Moby Dick. Now you know. But beyond that it is a questionable, at best, source of any knowledge.

Yes, Jefferson and Madison corresponded during that time. In fact, Jefferson was pretty much behind the Constitution. However, he was a state's rights advocate, and laid the groundwork for the theory of nullification that came to a head in 1861 and was summarily destroyed by things like Sherman's March to the Sea. His state's rights (anti-federalist v. federalist after the United States of America came to be) attitude rested on the fact that things powers not given to the federal government explicitly didn't belong to the federal government at all, and a federal government that went beyond the scope of the law that was written down could have its actions voided by the states. He was not in favor of a so-called "evolving" constitution that changes meaning and not words. He was a fan of amendments to change the law's words, if they were necessary. All the founding fathers were in favor of amendments. The people who ratified it were in favor of amendments.

How do we know this?

They devoted an article of the Constitution to the matter of how it will change: by the amendment process. It is meant to need slow, organic change for an amendment to come into play. It was supposed to guard against the very idea of an "evolving" law that changed rapidly.

If you want a change to the Constitution, propose an amendment. Otherwise, the law is as it was ratified. Nothing else.

Sunny Badger said...

Cato:

I think the idea behind the Constitution makes a great deal of sense. We start from a foundation and slowly build from there. It is not an easy process to get changes through and there is a great deal of political shading that goes on in the comparison of the laws created by our legislators and the interpretation of said laws by the executive and judicial branches. It's not a perfect system, but it does appear to have checks and balances in place that work with a certain percentage of effectiveness.

What do you see as the good and bab points about our constitutional from of government?

cato said...

"Jefferson was pretty much behind the Constitution" = "he backed it and supported it's creation" not "he orchestrated it", to be clear. I re-read that and realized it could be taken either way.

The Republic created by the Constitution was about as good as you can get. A limited role for the general government was made by it, and it had all sorts of checks and balances beyond that of executive v. judiciary v. legislative. This is because the states had a voice (Senators initially chosen by states) the people had a voice (House chosen by people) the best had a voice (President chosen by electors, indirectly by the people)... no one form of government reigned over the others. Today we are a Democracy. I suppose that the thing that was missing was some clause saying that if the selection of any of these branches was changed a new constitution had to be made, or something along those lines, for it fundamentally changed our form of government. And, sadly, the words that were missing were "powers outside of those enumerated are denied to the general government". No one thought it had to be said, but the twisting of the words to suit purposes beyond the scope that the Constitution legally allows, in hindsight, makes such words paramount.