September 17th is Constitution Day. Did you know that? For most people, the anniversary of this document that changed the world forever passes unnoticed. Why is it important? Does it really matter in our modern world? Is it still relevant?
You can read the whole document in 20 minutes or less. You can understand it pretty well with maybe an hour of thought. This document has guided and shaped our nation and influenced governments and people around the world. The principles it reflects have guided great thinkers and philosophers for hundreds of years – it simply put those principles into a framework that would create the most powerful, prosperous and free people the world has ever seen.
The greatest thinkers and statesmen we have ever seen have been unanimous in their praise for this document. Daniel Webster said “I regard it as the work of the purest patriots and wisest statesmen that ever existed, aided by the smiles of a benignant (gracious) Providence…it almost appears a Divine interposition in our behalf…” He also said “It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good master, but they mean to be masters.”
In this short and clear document, basic concepts that allow good government and discourage bad government and tyranny are laid down. Just a few of these concepts allow us to see the brilliance and good will of those who crafted it.
One branch of government, the legislative, is responsible exclusively for the creation of law. The other two branches may not do this. Their duties include the enforcement of law (executive branch) and interpretation of the law and punishment of law breakers (the judicial).
The system of checks and balances provided that no one branch could overwhelm or diminish the power or effectiveness of the other two branches. They would be confined to the responsibilities granted and if one began to usurp ungranted powers, either of the other two could stop that usurpation.
Each state will have a republican form of government (not the party – the system of representation). They can make their own rules, as long as those rules do not conflict with the Constitution. They must honor the contracts made in the other states, even if their laws do not agree.
The government can raise money through taxation, import and export duties or tariffs and can print money, establish post offices and raise and support armies and navies for the general defense. Funding for the military can only be determined for up to two years at a time.
All elected (and many appointed officials) as well as all military employees must affirm by oath their support for and willingness to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. This is true even if they are serving on the local or state level.
There are many other great concepts presented, but the document lays out the foundation of greatness for a nation and its people. Next time we will consider how it protects our freedoms through the Bill of Rights.