Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Saturday's Show: Prospects of a Constitutional Convention.

  People want simple solutions to complex problems. Simple solutions reassure. If solutions are too complex, people lost interest.
   Ignorance tends to instill fear.  Fear can lead to violence.
   People speak of the “Founders” of this country, and oftentimes use “Founders” to refer to the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia.  I disagree with application of “Founders” to the convention delegates.  A “founder” is one who “founds or establishes.”  The American College Dictionary, 1962 ed., p. 480. To “found” is “to lay the lowest part of, fix, or build (a structure) on a firm base or ground.”  Id. A “frame,” is “form, constitution, or structure in general.”  Id., p. 482.
   “Founders” of the United States arguably consisted of everyone who made up the population of the original thirteen colonies. Most of those people could not vote. Some were held in bondage. Their status as disenfranchised people who lived and died here could not eliminate their presence here and their effect on the republic later to rise.
   The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention framed a government, much as a house or other building is framed after a foundation is poured and formed.  There 73 delegates named to the Constitutional Convention. Fifty-five actually attended, at one time or another.  Thirty-nine were present at the signing. All were white males.  All were land owners. There were no Jewish people amongst them, nor any of the Islamic faith. Joseph Smith would not “find” golden tablets in New York for another four or five decades. The delegates produced a document, in the Constitution, to facilitate growth of the country just born.  
   The work on interpretation of the Constitution began almost immediately. Laws and constitutions consist of words. As Ducat and Chase have noted: “Constitutional interpretation is not a static enterprise which presents the prospect of furnishing correct, certain, or ultimate legal answers to political problems but, rather, one of a continual adjustment of tensions through a process of unending dialogue among judges of fundamentally different political faiths and experiences. ... In an imperfect world, where the clash of competing interests is the only certainty, where issues are therefore inherently complex, where judges are fallible, and where man-made institutions have limits, solutions to problems will inevitably be less than optimum.”    Constitutional Interpretation, 3d ed., 1983, p.vii.
   The Constitution has developed for over two hundred years of judicial interpretation, warfare, amendment, and societal evolution and change.
   The notion that our problems will disappear with a few adjustments, here and there, is tempting to some. The 1787 Constitutional Convention occurred because Congress authorized a convention to make changes and corrections to the Articles of Confederation. The delegates to the 1787 Convention went beyond the charter given them by Congress.
   If a convention were held today, its actions could go far beyond what people might think is desirable.
   On Saturday, July 26, at Perk Up on Cornell in Broad Ripple, Paul Mannweiler will join Matt Stone, Jeff Cox, and me to discuss the merits of a constitutional convention. The topic is interesting, and the discussion should also be interesting.

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