Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Aged 226 Years, US Constitution & Its Companion

Today is marked as the 226th birthday of the US Constitution. In reality, that beloved document that serves as the supreme law of our land does not have a birthday. It was written over time. If you include the amendments, you can say it was written over centuries.

In fact, if you study the history and circumstances that led to the penning of the original base document, it evolved from a couple of centuries worth of data, analysis, study, and thought. Some of the ideas date back to Aristotle. Others to Magna Carta. Most date to works that were more contemporary such as the writings of John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.

Ratification was not a quick process, either. There were many who questioned giving even that much power, albeit limited, to a federal government. Today, we should heed those warnings and remember the intended safeguards built within the US Constitution, many of which some members of the "political class" attempt to circumvent or ignore.

In writing the constitution, three men emerged as its champions. In letters written to objectors, these men sought to convince others of the necessity of a stronger federal government that would still be limited in its authority to only those few responsibilities that should be reserved to a federal government.

Among most prominent  necessary authorities are: national defense (military), paying national debts, governing disputes between states including commerce, a high court, diplomatic actions on behalf of the states with foreign powers, and the authority to collect revenues (taxes) in order to pay for the above.

With the 10th Amendment, the ratified document was complete. That amendment blatantly stated what much of the verbiage within the base document implied:  if it isn't listed in here as a federal responsibility or authority, it isn't -- so leave the states and individuals alone.

The three champions: John Jay (1st US Supreme Court Chief Justice), Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison (4th President of the US); wrote their arguments. Today, a compendium of these letters, known as The Federalist Papers, serve as sort of an owners' manual for the US Constitution. While they do not address the amendments that came after them, the words of wisdom within should be taken into account when considering any alteration or amendment to the US Constitution. They are just as relevant, if not more so, today as they were 226 years ago.

These works should be celebrated along side of the US Constitution. So, today, let's give thanks to those three great men and commemorate the US Constitution and The Federalist Papers on their 226th Anniversary.