Friday, January 27, 2006

I am a Jeffersonian

My Constitutional law class is giving me a handle on early American history. And I have realized that I am a Jeffersonian through and through.

Jefferson didn't believe that the Constitution should be immutable - in fact, he felt that it should be rewritten every generation. Our textbook has a couple of very powerful quotes on the topic from Jefferson.

Jefferson wrote in a letter to Samuel Kercheval in 1816 that "some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present. Let us not weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs....The dead have no rights."

Furthermore, in a letter to Madison, Jefferson indicated that even turbulence was "productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to public affairs. I hold that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing."

This is exactly my viewpoint on the Constitution - I cannot abide by the quasi-religious veneration that it receives from the general American population and the blind veneration for the Framers of the Consitution that Americans are wont to have. To me, it is amazing that even in Jefferson's time, these same issues were present in American political life. And, given our deep-rooted veneration of the Constitution and consequent hesistance to criticize it, it is nice that I can point to one of the equally venerated personages of that age to support my views on the Constitution.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another thing strongly felt by Jefferson and others was that corporations had a mandate to serve the public good (still technically true, although carefully hidden) and that they shouldn't enjoy the legal status and protections of individual humans.
The reverence people feel for the constitution is largely a problem for those liberals who scorned Gore Vidal's call for a second constitutional convention because they were afraid of their fellow Americans. And of course the Second Amendment idiots who imagine their K-mart arsenal could stop a properly trained regular infantry from the Great War era and that marching around in cammies makes you a militia.
The rightists who profess "strict constructionism" are of a piece with the rightists who profess "christianity" or "morality": positively ignorant of and hostile toward their own putative doctrines. Since they despise the constitution altogether they cannot be accused of revering it.
It seemed to me we ought to issue a new edition once the Amendments got to more than ten, or unweildy. The ideal basic law should be recitable and fully comprehensible by every citizen, and just building upon the same foundation precludes this.

1:44 PM  

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