Is The Constitution A Living Document?
This is an argument that has been brought forth by many liberals, and I had an opinion that was rather strict and structured myself, until I took the time to think about it. I only ask you, the reader, to look at the results of my thinking process carefully. I'm sure many of you will disagree with the statement I'll make, but look at the reasons for my conclusions first, before you comment. Too, those of you that believe my statement to be fact might want to read through to my conclusions, before blindly agreeing with me.
The Constitution is a living document, subject to re-interpretation and change.
I reached this conclusion by looking at the framers of this historic document. There were 55 members to the Constitutional Convention. 29 of them had served in the Continental forces, most of them in positions of
command. These were men who were well aware of the fact that circumstances could lead to a change in plans, or a re-interpretation of a battlefield situation, based on change and new information.
The concept well might have carried over, into thinking that, as new information can change tactics on the battlefield, so can new information change the focus and thrust of a government. These are men who undoubtedly new that the Constitution could, and should, change with the times and with the growth of the Republic they were in the process of establishing. Consider only Washington. At a time when ones forces were supposed to be bedded down for the winter, he led an attack on the Hessians at Trenton, and soundly defeated them.
13 of the framers were businessmen, merchants, or shippers. These were men who understood the nature of change. Men who understood that changes in fashion, in product needs, even in the weather (in the case of shippers) would, of necessity, require a change in the way they did business. They were looking forward always, to change, and changing themselves and the way they did business, in order to meet the change in their customer base, and the needs of those customers.
They would understand the need for change, for re-interpretation, in the document they were writing. 11 speculated in securities on a large scale. I have a portfolio of stocks myself, and, as the market changes, I must change. I have to re-interpret where the market is going, and adjust my portfolio accordingly. I'm sure they had that in mind, when they framed the Constitution. Let's continue to look at these men.
Most of them were married, with children. As each one married, as each one had that first child, the need for change and re-interpretation of life goals, of family management, of career stability, of the need to increase income, living space, etc.. Additionally, there had to be a re-interpretation of each ones situation, based on the changes occurring in family and lifestyle.
Some of them were wealthy. One does not achieve wealth without being willing to change, to re-interpret the financial winds of change, and to act accordingly. Franklin started penniless, and became prosperous. Inventor, politician, publisher, he understood the need to change, to re-interpret, to move into new waters, to go in directions previously not envisioned.
Some were politicians, one was a university president, and three were doctors. Look at the doctors for a minute. Would you prefer a doctor that graduated from medical school and never touched another text in his/her life, or would you rather have a doctor who was willing to change, to study new treatments, to re-interpret diagnostic data and use it in the healing process?
All of them were men who looked to change, to re-interpret government, its powers, its liabilities, its limitations, and the strictures that must be placed on it. And so they set to work. That there was disagreement during the process of forming this newborn child in the history of word government, we have no doubt. The arguments were many, and fractious. In the process, both the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist documents were published, documents used to expose to a public forum the arguments present in the framers minds.
A hot time in Philadelphia, as these men hammered out a document to establish a government unlike anything ever seen in the world to that point, a system of government at once based on a multitude of historical precedents and yet ringing a new concept of the powers of government itself, and the powers of the people under that federal government.
They succeeded. They succeeded in a way never before conceived, and never since fully emulated. They argued points, hammered out differences, and often came near to blows, but they developed a document both monumental in its newness and daring in its simplicity.
Can anyone believe that such forward thinking men would conceive of a document such as the Constitution, without seeing the need for change, for re-interpretation? And so they foresaw that change must come, that the document they had created was a living thing, and they provided it with a chance for growth, for change, for re-interpretation.
Read along with me these words:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States,
shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the
several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; …"
I submit to you, the reader, that these men in their wisdom established the above as the ONLY means of change, the ONLY means of re-interpretation, of the Constitution of the United States of America. This Article, Article V, is the only way to change, to re-interpret the Constitution. And to those who would think they have the knowledge to decide what the Founding Fathers meant, I would point out that they
meant exactly what they wrote. They made the Constitution a living document with Article V thereof. ANY attempt to change, to re-interpret this document EXCEPT through the means provided by the Founding
Fathers is criminal.
NOTE: Copyright 02/03/04 by Dave Hoffman
Use granted to all who identify author.
Beneficium accipere libertatem est vendere.
by Dave Hoffman