Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Whatever Happenned to Constitution Week?

Congress, by joint resolution of 29 February 1952 (36 U.S.C. 106, as amended), designated 17 September as "Constitution Day" as well as "Citizenship Day." & by joint resolution of 2 August 1956 (36 U.S.C. 108, as amended), requested that the President proclaim the week beginning September 17 & ending September 23 of each year as "Constitution Week."
Growing up I never heard a thing about either the day or the week. It wasn't until recently that it even got a little attention. & even now hardly anwhere near as much as it should. Yes, President Obama did issue a proclamation on 16 September. But with a few exceptions,(for example: The Establishment Clause Should Be Less Established, Constitution Week at the United States Capitol) the day, let alone the week has been mostly ignored.
I am 1 of those rare people who does regularly reread the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence. Sometimes for a specific purpose, but I often read it just for the sake of keeping it fresh in my mind. (I also have a copy of the Federalist Papers as well as The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates.)
1 of the things the Constitution was intended to do was to delineate the areas where the Federal Government had exclusive rule, where the states had exclusive rule & where powers were shared.
The Constitution (Article 1, section 8, clause 17) made it the responsibility of the US Congress to "raise & support Armies" as well as to "provide and maintain a Navy." Part of the responsibility includes the "Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings." But there is 1 interesting limit on where they can put up the needful buildings. The sites they buy can only be "purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be." Yup, the State legislature has the final say as to whether those buildings are needful in their state. On the other hand clause 7 allows Congress "To establish Post Offices and post Roads" without getting the permission of the State legislatures in which they are built.
Another fact that is glossed over is why the Senate & House memeberships were originally elected by different constituencies. A fact, that if it was taught as it should in the early part of the 20th Century, would have kept the "progressives" from pushing through the 17th Amendment taking the power to elect senators away from the State legislatures. The Senate was intended to represent the States' interests, not the people as a whole. So each sovereign state was given 2 Senators to represent them. The Constitution took away the power of the individual states to enter into treaties, but to ensure their soveriegnty was protected, that branch of the Congress that represented them, the Senate, was given sole authority, by a super majority, to ratify aall treaties before they could be enforced. The same was true for the other sole power they have, to approve ambassadors, Supreme Court judges & other executive appointments.
On the other hand, the House was intended to represent the people & protect their rights. That is why any Revenue bill must originate in the House. Remember that the War for Indepepndence came about in huge part because the American people were being taxed by Parliament without anyone in it to represent them.
In this day & age there is no excuse for anyone to be ignorant of what the Constitution actually says. It is readily available to read on the internet. Inexpensive copies can be bought & many groups give away free copies. Preferably, the booklet should include the Declaration as well as that is our seminal document that the Constitution is built on. More attention should be paid to the Articles of Confederation as well so people can understand what its weaknesses are. A familiarity with the pro & anti constitution positions found in the Federalist & Anti-Federalist Papers as well as what went on in the debates is important as well. While a day or week is nice, much more should be done to educate the people on the real story of the Constitution, especially that it was meant to limit the powers of the government. It was never intended to be a "living document" whose meaning is changed at the whim of current opinion.
John Adams, who wrote the pamphlet, Thoughts on Government, that laid the groundwork for the Federal Constitution as well made 1 other thing clear as well. He once said: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” A similar sentiment was stated by George Washington & many other of our Founding Fathers as well. Our Founding Fathers never wanted a "state religion" like the Anglican Church in England. But they never wanted to cut out religion & morality from playing a role in the public debate as well.
Our Founding fathers didn't create a perfect document in the Constitution. Thus the need for an Amendment process that could correct the flaws. Ben Franklin put it best in his speech on the final day of the Constitutional Convention. It it talked about his concerns about the flaws he saw in it. But he also admitted that it was probably the best any group could do. "It therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our counsels are confounded like those of the builders of Babel, and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best." Over 220 years later we have seen many other countries write constitutions. IMHO, The US Constitution still remains THE BEST!!!!!


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