More and more often, I hear the opinions of others: “it doesn’t really matter… does it? I mean… it’s, like, really old. That’s outdated, right?” ‘It’ as in, the US Constitution.
Well, I have an answer to that.
First of all, just because something is “really old” doesn’t mean it’s outdated. The Bible is old, but it’s not outdated. The Magna Carta is old… ancient, really.. but it’s not outdated. The idea of freedom is old… but it’s not outdated. The idea of socialism is old… but it’s not outdated.
Why, then, should the US Constitution be?
Well, it’s not, because it is based on timeless principles such as private ownership, limited government, federalism, freedom of speech and press, and many more principles that bless our lives today when we live them, and curse our lives when we don’t.
Law is a two-edged sword. If you keep it, good things happen. But if you break it, it’s not just that good things don’t happen, it’s that bad things happen.
But I digress.
The Constitution is a key document in the welfare of our nation. While the Declaration of Independence is the ideology of our nation, the Constitution is the methodology. While the Declaration of Independence makes a promise (the equal right to life, liberty, and happiness), the Constitution makes good on that promise -essentially, it provides a government that allows those to be a reality. Both are fundamental to our freedom and should be respected, studied, and understood.
While the document is not perfect, it does not need to be. We are imperfect beings in an imperfect world, and we will be ruled with imperfect government. In the words of James Madison, a signer of the Constitution and the 4th president of the USA, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
But let me tell you something: it was not made in one summer. Can you imagine a one year old spending a summer and figuring out all the details of their entire life –what high school they would go to, how and when (if at all) they would move as a child or teen, what college they would go to, who they would marry, how many kids they would have, what career they would pursue, when they would retire, what they would do in retirement, when they would die, what they would die of, where they would be buried, who would attend the funeral?
Quite frankly, it’s absurd! It’s not even possible! Likewise, many people think that it was impossible for the founders to write a document that would actually protect US citizens’ freedoms in a single summer. We were an infantile nation, at that point.
However, that was not the way it was -the Constitution was not written in a summer.
Those who think that are forgetting a few key parts of the picture:
- The Founders believed that God had a special purpose, or mission, for each one of them and that it was their duty to fulfill it. Thus, they were living their lives preparing for this mission. That means that they would have beens studying for statesmanship perhaps since they were twelve or so. Therefore, they would have had many years of study: the average age of those present at the convention is 42. That is 30 years of study and preparation!
- They studied history like crazy! I think “modern people” have forgotten how useful history was. Because they studied history they knew about the governments in the past and how they succeeded or failed. Thus, they had knowledge beyond their own years and experience.
- Basically since the colonists had come over from England, they lived under “Salutary Neglect.” In plain terms, this means that the King of England (whoever it was at that time) thought it best to mostly leave the colonies alone. After all, it was rather expensive to rule a kingdom across a big ocean before the days of email, social media, texting, IMing, and google hangouts. Why does this matter? It means that the colonists got lots of practice governing themselves. From the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, they got 169 years of practice. That’s impressive! And by the time the Constitutional Convention was held in 1787, they had had 180 years of practice. So they were not going into this blindly.
- God was directing them. Multiple founding fathers have called the success of the Constitutional Convention a miracle, and Benjamin Franklin requested that the Convention started each day with a prayer (this request was not granted, due to a lack of funds).
Some people assert that the Constitution was not made to protect freedom and that it does not support it at all. However, the way the government was set up was designed specifically to limit the government’s powers, because when the government is limited, freedom is not. It’s as simple as that.
But it’s also written in the ‘prologue’: first paragraph, first page of the US Constitution:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
In less fancy words, the Constitution was written to ESTABLISH AND PRESERVE PEACE AND FREEDOM.
So is the Constitution outdated? Is it ‘out of vogue’? Does it actually do anything to protect freedom?
The answer to that is no, it’s not outdated. No, it’s not ‘out of vogue’: unless freedom is, too. Yes, it actually does protect our freedom.
In other words, yes, the Constitution still matters.