Saturday, September 17, 2005

Happy Birthday, Constitution!

218 years ago on this day, 55 delegates from 12 of the 13 original states met for the final time in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. They emerged from the Constitutional Convention with a document of just four pages that established the world's longest-running republic existing today. Today, we celebrate the 218th birthday of the Constitution of the United States (PDF version, includes unratified amendments).

Prior to the adoption of the Constitution, the United States was a loose-knit confederation of 13 independent and sovereign states. Our Constitution established a federal government of defined and limited powers, although three generations of "living Constitution" jurisprudence would surely leave the Founding Fathers wondering about the absence of the numerous amendments inappropriately imposed via the courts. In 1926, Congress proposed an amendment, which went unratified, to allow congress to regulate or prohibit child labor. The courts would eventually widen the scope of Congress's interstate commerce regulatory powers to render ratification of this amendment unnecessary.

The Constitution is written document that means what it says until it is amended--a process outlined in Article V that has been invoked only 27 times. Yet, we mustered the 2/3 vote of each house of Congress and the approval of the Legislatures of 3/4 of the states to abolish slavery, abolish racial discrimination in voting, grant women suffrage, abolish poll taxes, and reduce the minimum voting age to 18. As we prepare to appoint 2 new Justices of the Supreme Court, we must ask which vision of the Constitution we want--an originalist view that interprets the Constitution and each of its amendments according to the original intent thereof or whether we want unelected judges to impose from the bench their personal policy preferences under the very dubious guise of "a living, breathing Constitution that follows the evolving standards of society." If you have not already done so, I definitely recommend buying Mark Levin's best-seller Men in Black.

I encourage you to take an hour or two out of your weekend to read the fundamental governing document of our Republic and perhaps some of the Federalist Papers. This "more perfect Union" of ours has weathered over two centuries and numerous trials and troubles. As Benjamin Franklin said, they gave us a republic, if we could keep it.