Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Happy Constitution Day!

Sen. Robert Byrd and i agree on very little, except on this day, and its significance.

July 4th is not only the wrong day to celebrate the Declaration of Independence (you could go with July 2 or 8 just as accurately, first reading and vote on 2nd, most signed it on the 8th), but as for the day we began to be the country that we are, we have been, and that we might just yet fulfill, Sept. 17 is THE day -- the day the Constitution was officially voted into existence under the preamble: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Modern historiography tends to focus on the compromises and the shortcomings, which are many in the document (the 3/5th compromise the most egregious of them all, putting a lesser work on some humans while still leaving them in bondage even as you gave their owners votes based on their bleeding backs). What Catherine Drinker Bowen called it in her still readable account, now almost 50 years old itself, is a "Miracle at Philadelphia."

They gathered to tweak the Articles of Confederation, which were nearly unworkable from 1776 over the next ten years. Unlike the blazing talent of a Thomas Jefferson writing the whole, the group process -- with leadership like Benjamin Franklin and James Madison and Edmund Randolph and Governeur Morris, to be sure -- created a remarkable document that has just enough flexibility to work without being so rigid as to require constant adjustment.

The European Union tried to write themselves a constitution starting in 2004, and they came up with an unreadable volume that to date has not been ratified (they're starting over after a "period of reflection."). The length and comprehensiveness of the EU draft constitution is a big part of why they can't get it passed; our Constitution, for all its flaws, can be read in just a few minutes by anyone.

Why don't you read it today yourself? Or you can listen to it by clicking the buttons on the sections -- either way, at this link:

If you are a teacher or educator of any sort, here's a slew of links at the Library of Congress for getting into the many fascinating details of this truly Founding Document:

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