Updated: Apr 21
The Constitution of the United States of America is considered one of the most important, if not the most important documents to our country, and to democracy.
People carry copies of this precious document around in their pockets, so that they might pull it out and wave it around to defend their actions at a moments notice. To invoke The Constitution of The United States of America in a political argument is tantamount to pulling out Webster's dictionary in a game of Scrabble. On the other side, there is a lot of rhetoric maligning the authors for owning slaves, and the idea that because our Constitution was written in the 1780s that it couldn't possibly be relevant today. Yet, many in this country can't name the six primary authors of the Constitution, much less articulate their ideologies without bias or agenda.
This dichotomy exists because of how little people really understand our Constitution, and more importantly the men who wrote it. Important manuscripts like; Thomas Paine's, The Rights of Man, John Adams', A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, The Federalist Papers, The Anti-Federalist Papers and the autobiographies of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, are not required reading in most high schools or colleges. These writings not only give context to the Constitution, they give background and insight into the primary framers and their motivation. The Federalist Papers for example, are 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to various news papers in New York. The goal was to persuade New Yorkers to ratify the Constitution that they had drafted in Philadelphia. The essays explained the Constitution in detail and can today be used to understand the framers intent.
In 2015 The American Council of Trustees and Alumni commissioned GfK, a research firm, to conduct a survey of "recent American college graduates and the public at large about their understanding of our free institutions of government". Here's one example of the results:
"Only 20.6% of respondents could identify James Madison as the Father of the Constitution. More than 60% though the answer was Thomas Jefferson--despite the fact that Jefferson, as the U.S. ambassador to France, was not present during the Constitutional Congress."
The sad fact is, that schools (K-12), and Universities are not teaching American civics on a functional level. This allows factions, a word the framers used often, that do not have the People's best interests in mind, to erode the democratic principles that the Founding Fathers worked so hard to create.
The Frames of our Constitution were smart, forward thinking, dedicated men. They weren't perfect and they knew it, that's why they worked together with the members of the Constitutional Convention to create a fluid and living document that could change with the times, could become all inclusive, and sustain our democracy well past their lives. Our Constitution is a document, we the people are the soul, the breath that make it live. It, like our government, is what we make it. But, for democracy to survive we must begin to educate ourselves and each other in basic American Civics.
To be continued...