The Constitution, a Living Document?


Grandma just blushed and giggled a bit as she heard my compliment of her food and grandpa just tussled my head as he said,

“Now, boy, no truer words can be said, I agree. Grandma’s chicken is the best in the county and there can be no doubt about that.” and with those words silence was our company for awhile as we continued home from church services.

After a bit grandpa picked up the Bible and said,

“Boy, this book has gone through a lot over the centuries since it was put together. It has been the center of many a argument in just about every phase of life. Many a man has tried to read it in such a manner so as to affirm his own beliefs of the meaning of life. There are even those who would say that the words within it are meaningless just to affirm his personal viewpoint on life.

The same can be said of the Constitution of this nation. Many an argument has been over its value and meaning to this nation. There are some who would say it is meaningless and use the excuse that it was written for a time past and is no longer applicable in today’s complex world.

There are others who would say that it was written in a manner so as to be applicable to the changes of every generation. This viewpoint sees the Constitution as being a dynamic document as opposed to being a static document. And these persons will describe the Constitution as being a “living document”. And they will describe the words in the constitution as being so generalized as to justify the understanding.

Being the extremist that I am, doubt be my first response to this claim. And with this doubt the first question in my mind be if this was the intent behind its ratification? Would anyone vote for its ratification knowing that its meaning could be changed within his life time? I, myself, have the biggest of doubts about this. I can only speak for myself but there is one thing I am certain of.

I would never vote to ratify a Constitution under these circumstances and I don’t believe anyone with an ounce of intelligence would either. To ratify a constitution under these conditions would be asking someone to agree to something that he has no idea of what that agreement was. In fact I’d even go so far as to declare that if anyone would, it would be someone with the intent of changing its meaning so as to install an entirely new form of government at a later date when he had the power to do so. Even the idea of this possibility sends a streak of fear up my spine as it should anyone.

I will go even farther by saying that those who advocate this viewpoint don’t really believe in it. They are the ones who do seek to change government and how they seek to change it proves this disbelief. For the changes they seek are absolute changes, changes that they expect to be changes of perpetuity once accomplished. And they have no qualms about the use of force to bring about these changes. And can anyone doubt if a person is willing to use force to bring about change then he will be just as willing to use even greater force, if needed, in order to prevent any further changes once he has accomplished the changes he seeks? We have already seen their reaction when changes were proposed to their policies already in place.

Another reason I have my doubts in regards to this idea is the fact that it would require an extreme change of attitude on the part of the founding fathers. And this is something that I cannot fathom considering that these are the same men who came into an unanimous agreement of government under the Articles of Confederation. It is beyond my comprehension that they would go from a government that emphasized the absoluteness of State sovereignty to a government that would recognize State subordination to a central government.

There were too many anti-federalists to have allowed this to happen in a voluntarily and consensual manner. We need to remember that it was the federalists who caved in in regards to the important issues brought up not the anti-federalists, two of which concerned the additional house of Congress and the other being the addition of the Bill of Rights. The compromise in regards to apportionment was another concession that favored the anti-federalists.

But none of this answers the question of whether or not it was the intent to describe the Constitution in terms of being a “living document”. And if we were to abide by Ben Franklin’s instructional about the state of this union his generation created then the answer must be no. the reason being is that the consensus understanding of the constitutions by his instruction would not fit the description for the constitution being a living document as we are asked to understand it by those who advocate it being seen as.

There is a way though to view the Constitution as being a living document and still be in accordance to Mr. Franklin. But for one to understand this one must be open-minded in regards to its application. One must also be a student of the history of Religions as well as the history of Politics.

There is another document of historical note that has also been described in terms of being a living document. A document, I might add, that is hundreds of years older than the constitutions. The principles as described within that document has been described as principles of perpetuity.

And the principles of that document have been described as being just as relevant today as they were relevant in the times they were espoused for the first time. And they are said to have just as much relevance in the future as they do today. In fact that document has been divided in such a manner just to emphasize this continuity and consistency of thought.

And what is that document, boy? The answer is sitting here right in my hand. It is called the Bible. The Bible has often been referred to as the “Living Word of God”. And once we see the intent of the founding fathers along this line of thought it gives even greater meaning to the idea that we are a nation under the Providence of God as Geo. Washington described this nation.”

Grandpa just sighed as he ended these words before saying “ But, boy, who am I, an extremist, gun totin’, Bible thumper who is nothing but a politically incorrect bigot and racist redneck, to promote such a simple principle of government such as this? For anyone to accept this would have to also accept that the founding fathers did see a place in government for organized religions and that is unacceptable in today’s world regardless of how consistent it is to historical fact.

That is your grandpa for you, boy. And whether I like it or not this description of me will be passed down to you also for no more reason than the fact that you are my grandson. I can only hope that I can instill in you the strength that will be needed to carry this inherited burden.”

and with these words said grandpa turned into the driveway of the one place that a man can feel secure, home.

I looked over at grandma and though she kept quiet throughout I saw the painful look in her eyes as though she knew that the last words of grandpa was true and that there was nothing she could do to prevent it. A silent tear began to roll down my cheek as I saw that pain in her eyes.

Categories: History, Politics, Religion | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The Constitution, a Living Document?

  1. The constitutions was written a LONG time ago but it still has its values. Even if people dont like hearing whats in it. Sure I mean you look at it and say it doesnt matter but dont we follow most of it every day of our lives? Well some of us anyway in ways we just cant explain. I guess I see things way differently than most people and being female and 35 its hard to explain why i think that way.. HEHE.

  2. The Griper

    seeing life differently than others is a good thing, Nicole, it is how we reveal ourselves as being individuals instead of being just one of the crowd. and yes it is an unexplainable part of our lives.

    a constitution though is an agreement and it only has value as long as every party of that agreement abides faithfully to the terms of that agreement and does their part in the fulfillment of that agreement.

    and remember, Nicole, it is those persons who do not like hearing what’s in it who would be the biggest advocates of declaring that it has lost all meaning to a people.

    am still looking forward to that bbq too this summer. :)

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