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The Constitution of the United States is the single most God-inspired, revolutionary, and meticulously crafted political document ever conceived. 230 years since its signing, the Constitution is as readable and relevant as ever, still declaring freedom of conscience, life, liberty, property, association, speech, self-preservation, and equality under law — all in a world that is increasingly hostile to the notion of unalienable God-given rights.
I love the Constitution. I read it often. I marvel at the brilliance of imperfect men joined in the effort of forming a more perfect union, one that has inevitably had its struggles and scars yet still represents a better, freer, more prosperous nation than has ever existed on Earth.
But I have a sincere question — one that I hope you consider with equal sincerity: is the Constitution perfect? Has it ever been? Can imperfect men reasonably hope for anything beyond “more perfect” than before?
I’m afraid some of you might be accusing me of heresy, calling me a phony constitutionalist, but let’s be objective and honest. I’ve written and debated dozens of times about the virtues of our founding principles. I’ve argued that nothing else matters if we don’t uphold the Constitution. I’ve discussed the Constitution’s protection of natural rights, the Constitution as the bedrock of conservatism, and the duty of conservatives to prioritize the Constitution over personal gain. I’ve written about amendments I love and amendments I hate. Every episode of the weekly podcast I co-host includes a segment on the Constitution.
In short, I love the Constitution. But has it ever been perfect? And assuming it was when it was first signed, is it still?
The Constitution has changed
The Constitution has changed since its original draft, as we know — seventeen times, to be exact (not counting the Bill of Rights). I am not at all of the Michael Moore mindset that the Constitution is “ancient and outdated,” but while I agree that the Constitution’s pros have always massively outweighed its cons, I would argue that some changes were necessary.
Then-future President Abraham Lincoln said in 1856, “Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.” One might deduce from this that Lincoln opposed any and all alterations of the divinely inspired text, yet he was instrumental in the passage of the 13th Amendment and the abolition of slavery.
In 1787, the Constitution was “more perfect” than any government blueprint had ever been, and with the addition of the Reconstruction Amendments — 13th, 14th, and 15th, which freed the slaves, granted citizenship and equality under the law to all men, and acknowledged blacks’ right to vote — the United States of America became even “more perfect” than before.
But was the Constitution then perfect? I believe that was the closest it has ever come to perfection, with only a few steps remaining. Some of my favorite amendments after the Reconstruction are the 19th (women’s suffrage), the 22nd (presidential term limits, ensuring that no man could, like FDR, attempt to make himself king of the United States), the 24th (abolition of the poll tax), and the 27th (prohibiting Congress from giving itself a raise). But with the good came the “progressive” — amendments intended to increase the size of government and undermine our republic, chiefly the 16th (progressive income tax) and the 17th (reforming Senate elections and crippling the influence of state legislatures).
With measures such as these, can we currently claim that the Constitution is perfect, or even as perfect as it was in 1870? It is still “more perfect” than other nations, but we must strive to be even “more perfect” than ourselves — “more perfect” than our previous potential.
Can we make America “more perfect”?
Again, I want this to be a sincere and provoking reflection. What can be done to make America “more perfect”?
Additional amendments might not be the answer, except maybe to repeal the 16th and 17th. After all, many of America’s problems stem from a lack of understanding and enforcement of the Constitution, not from any shortcomings of the Constitution itself.
Birthright citizenship — automatic citizenship for children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents — for instance, traces back to a perversion of the 14th amendment and has never been enshrined in U.S. law, whether through legislation or judicial review. If you feel that tightening up immigration law would help make America “more perfect,” then we don’t need to amend the Constitution — we need to correctly understand and apply it.
Property, contract, and association rights of business owners, and the same for medical professionals, must be respected if we want to preserve individual liberties and unalienable rights. But the Constitution already protects them. We just need to enforce it.
In a tremendous step forward, the House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday, outlawing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But did the Constitution ever allow for abortion in the first place? Proponents of Roe v. Wade won’t like this, but no — not according to the people who wrote it.
Many people argue abortion based on what’s fair, but our nation’s laws aren’t based on the Left’s version of “fairness” any more than statutes (ought to) derive from government-mandated compassion. The supreme law of the land is the Constitution, and our Founding Fathers provide incontrovertible insight as to their understanding of the unalienable right to life.
I don’t think the Constitution is quite perfect, and I don’t know if it ever will be. Madison mused, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” And I would add, “If men were perfect, they could form perfect governments.”
America is not perfect. The Constitution is not perfect. I am not perfect, you are not perfect, and not a single person on Earth is perfect. But I don’t think it matters. We can still be good people. This is still a great nation. And the Constitution is still inspired of God.
As John Adams warned, unless we are a “moral and religious people,” the Constitution will be “wholly inadequate” to us. Men are not angels, but we cannot be completely fallen — we have to live somewhere in between. Our lives, efforts, and institutions may never be perfect, but like the Constitution itself, we as a people and as a country can do the best we can, becoming a little “more perfect” every day.
Richie Angel is a Co-Editor in Chief of The New Guards. Follow him and The New Guards on Twitter, and check out The New Guards on Facebook.
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