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Living Document Versus Dead Letter September 9, 2016

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics, Politiocal Philosophy.

Recently I had a conversation with someone I respect very much, someone who is intelligent and perceptive.  When the subject of the Constitution was brought up they contemptuously said “That was written hundreds of years ago by men who owned slaves.  So much for your all men are created equal. What does it have to do with how we live today?”

I have also heard many people decry the indoctrination which passes for primary education today.  I want to point out that it isn’t just a phenomenon of the moment.  This penchant for molding young skulls full of mush into good anti-capitalist, anti-constitution, pro-collectivist, pro-central-planning Progressives did not start with President Obama and his fundamental transformation of America.  It did not start with the Bush dynasty.  It did not start during the Clinton interlude.

I am in my late sixties and I was taught in grade school that the Constitution was a living document.  I was taught in public school that Teddy the Trust Buster had saved us from the evils of Laissez-faire capitalism wherein evil plutocrats called Robber Barons sought to grind people into dust for the sake of a few pennies more. We were told stories such as the evil one about the evil grasping J. D. Rockefeller, the richest man in modern History who when asked, “How much money was enough?” answered, “Just a little bit more” as examples of the greed our wonderful ever-growing central government had saved us from.

No this tendency to view the Constitution as either a stumbling block to step over or an irrelevant historical document is not new.  There is no one alive today who was not inculcated with this pernicious heresy if not at their mother’s knee than at the local regime controlled public school.

It is important to remember that we who believe in limited government, personal freedom, and economic opportunity speak a different language and use a different set of interpretive lenses than those who swallowed the party-line whole.

We look to the Founders.

They denigrate them as slave owning hypocrites who were out to feather their own nests.

We try to build upon original intent so that we can stay true to the foundational principles of Enlightenment liberty.

They say people who lived hundreds of years ago had no meaningful insight into what we face today.

We say that the philosophy of liberty is timeless and should be our guiding light to fend off the darkness of tyranny which has been the lot of the majority of humanity for the majority of History.

They say we must progress into the future and find new ways to order our society, our government, and our lives.

We and they may ultimately be just another way of saying us and them.

Has America come to a parting of the ways?  Have we the people become our people and those people?  Has E pluribus unum, “Out of many one” become Ex uno plures, “Out of one many.”  Has the melting pot become the smelting pot?  Have hyphenated Americans displaced Americans.  Has the Living Document made the Constitution a dead letter?

I do not delude myself.  The Founders of our nation and the Framers of our Constitution were no demigods sent from Olympus to bring forth a sacred republic or to deliver a sacred document down from on high.  They were men, and they were as fallible as all men always have been and always will be.  However they were a group of men steeped in the Enlightenment philosophy of John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, Thomas Paine, and Adam Smith.

These philosophies boldly went where no man had gone before.  They proclaimed that man had a right to be free and that to obtain this freedom in a practical sense government must be limited.  The American Constitution is the closest embodiment of those philosophies that has ever come from the hand of man.  It is for this reason that I proudly declare myself to be a proponent of a return to constitutional government.

I could now launch into statements couched in the terminology and nuances of today.  These might be more pleasing to the ear.  They might even be more acceptable in a debate.  However, there is no debate.  Everyone is talking past each other.  We are all speaking from the ramparts of entrenched ideological positions, afraid if we listened to others we might be taken captive and convinced if anyone listened to us we would be ignored.

Therefore, I will roll out the biggest gun I can think of, a man who spoke much more eloquently than I ever will, the man who envisioned and expressed the treasons for our independence and the shape that independence should take: Thomas Jefferson.

Why do we need a constitution at all?

Thomas Jefferson: “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.”

How should we interpret the Constitution?

Thomas Jefferson: “On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit of the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

What will be the end result of the living document fluid interpretation of our Constitution?

Thomas Jefferson: “Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.”

All we have between us and the tyranny which has plagued mankind since the cave is our Constitution.  As it has been eroded so have our freedoms.  We as a free people will either stand or fall with our Constitution.

You may have been taught that it is a living document but don’t let that living document make our Constitution a dead letter.  For our freedom will die with it.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2016 Contact Dr. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens





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