Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Jefferson would have hated Scalia.

In the United States, we hold the Constitution as sacrosanct. Rightfully or not, we honor it as the longest continuously observed ruling document and as a document which can be amended only with some measure of "national agreement." A strong debate that we often see in 5-4 Supreme Court decisions is the question of whether Justices should rule by the letter of the law or by the spirit of the law. Do the Bill of Rights protect a women's right to choose? They clearly didn't in 1776, but does that matter? Ought capitol punishment be considered Cruel and Unusual Punishment? Again, it was not considered either cruel nor unusual in 1776. Do students have a right to free speech. In 1776 anyone who didn't own land didn't have rights, especially children (check out Justice Thomas's opinion in Morse v. Frederick). This debate is played over and over.

Well, apparently Thomas Jefferson anticipated this and was not sure we should have a Constitution at all.

Check that out in more in this interesting article by Andrew Trees in the Post.

Less well known is that Jefferson disliked the idea of a permanent constitution, thinking it would become a "dead hand of the past" weighing on future generations. He proposed that the Constitution expire every 19 years so that a new one, more attuned to current issues, could be written. Fortunately, James Madison persuaded him not to pursue the idea.
I'm not so sure who's fortunate on that one? Although...potentially re-writing a constitution would be rather tedious and would be a loop hole for anyone wanting to take power... Articles like this remind of how silly it is when we use quotes from the Founding Fathers as quotes from God.
This was cross-posted at Poli-Think.

No comments: