On Our Written Constitution


Courtesy of gettyimages/New York Times Co.

“I am opposed to the practice of a legislative deception. It is better to proceed with candor…My oath was not to take a chance on the Constitution. It was to support it…We have had too much legislating by clamor, by tumult, by pressure. Representative government ceases when outside influence of any kind is substituted for the judgment of the representative. This does not mean that the opinion of constituents is to be ignored. It is to be weighed most carefully, for the representative must represent, but his oath provides that it must be ‘faithfully and impartially to the best of his abilities and understanding, agreeably to the rules and regulations of the Constitution and laws.’ Opinions and instructions do not outmatch the Constitution. Against it they are void…There can be no constitutional instruction to do an unconstitutional act” — Governor Calvin Coolidge, excerpt of veto message, May 6, 1920

Yesterday was Constitution Day. May it not pass this year as yet another burden on our calendar to reflect on the treasure a written Constitution has been. It provided things into which great men longed to look. Thrusting it aside so casually speaks not to our advancement but to our wholesale regression: necks offered to others to complacency wear the yoke over far more than the grievances that compelled the Declaration. Given an excellent opportunity to choose life over death, blessing over cursing, we stand at the place where a birthright is worth no more than lentils. Just as it was for Esau, there will be no instantly retrievable “do-over” once it is given away.

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