So it'll be two hundred and twenty four years this June since the United States Constitution was ratified. Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of these United States, and all-around swell guy except for the owning humans and raping them thing, had this to say about the permanency of the foundational document of the nation:
I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
I couldn't agree more!
Here are some things that have happened since the Constitution of the United States was ratified:
dang what the hell
holy shit god damn
see now you're just pulling my leg
what the fuck is that thing?
sweet mother of god you've got to be kidding me
wait they are how
Since that document was written, we've had a war over mercantilism, a war over slavery, a war over some dumb shit no one can really make heads or tails of that we call the "Great" war for some reason, a war over fascism, a war over communism, and a couple other wars over some even less sensible bullshit. Suffrage has extended to the unlanded, women, and non-whites.
We've got an internet
now. What would Thomas Jefferson think about that? Who fucking knows, probably nothing of worth since the telegraph
would have been to him indistinguishable from magic.
And yet more than one of the nine people who determine how our laws stack up against this foundational document are fond of breaking out the two-century-old dictionary to determine what exactly the "Founding Fathers" were thinking when they wrote the damned thing in order to determine how to interpret it. Why they ignore the part where those same people thought that was exactly the sort of behavior we should avoid
in order to have a reasonable jurisprudence is beyond me but I've given up arguing with them and figure it's easier to just give the document a once-over with track changes on. That way they have to start being honest about thinking for themselves rather than claiming they are impartial.
So what should be in a Constitution? Should we have
a Constitution? Lots of other countries don't have one and they seem to get by pretty OK going without. It's not like ours actually stops us from going to war or spying on our civilians or regulating religious beliefs or what have you, so maybe it's just a political expedient that helps unscrupulous individuals cloak their political ideology in more defensible constitutional "principles."
So what would you do if you had a magic wand? If they let you into the National Archives with a red pen and a highlighter, what would you do change about the Constitution? Or would you change nothing?