Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Literal Preamble rev




            The courts conduct one of the major debates in the country: some advocate that the opinions of the founders rule and others that subsequent court opinions rule. Nothing is certain. Administrative or legislative decisions are subject to judicial review, and decisions can go either way. First, as I will explain, I don't know whom to regard as the founders. However, my thesis is that the preamble speaks for itself, and is not weakened by the Articles and amendments and the massive body of existing court opinions. It is up to each citizen to figure out what the preamble’s words mean. Only then can a citizen, if he/she wishes, begin to ask, “What must I do to consider myself of ‘We the People of the United States’ as defined by the preamble?” With that understanding, each citizen is in a position to negotiate and compromise civic governance (three activities, as explained below) with other citizens. By compromise I mean exchange views and reach agreement on civic governance in cooperative autonomy and mutual accommodation. The only way to be of “We the People of the United States” as defined by the preamble is to 1) recognize its gift and 2) volunteer to uphold it. I am writing to encourage citizens to consider and adopt the preamble.
 
Who are the founding fathers?
 
            People claim authority by writing phrases like, “as the founding fathers intended,” or “as James Madison expected,” or “according to Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers.” Few writers refer to Gouverneur Morris, who penned the original document and adapted “We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts . . . ,“ to “We the People of the United States.”[1] However, the way things happened, I don’t see how anyone can stipulate who the founding fathers were. Practically speaking, the state-convention delegates from each of the nine states that voted to ratify the Constitution are the founding fathers, but on the other hand, they ratified under the condition that the document be amended by the First Congress for the USA.
            "Founding fathers" in the Continental Congress authorized delegates from each state to meet in Philadelphia to strengthen the Articles of Confederation. Rhode Island did not send delegates. There were 70 delegates[2] named; 55 attended the sessions; but only 39 signed the document. Some delegates urged a states’ constitution--a stronger Articles of Confederation--but compromised to a citizens’ constitution. Upon signature, the document was an accomplishment that had not been authorized and therefore could only be considered a proposal; it was merely a draft to be offered as a substitute for the expected revised Articles of Confederation. Furthermore, the document was known to be imperfect, one of the most glaring features being scheduling to end the slave trade but not scheduling emancipation; its special gift was amenability. Should we consider all the players in amending the 1788 constitution founding fathers? Probably not, but their work was required to complete the constitution that was negotiated by ratifying states. That is, as a condition for ratifying, some states required the promise of a Bill of Rights. That bill was not ratified until December 15, 1791. So are the founders everyone involved in the first complete constitution for the USA?
            The Continental Congress, after September 17, 1787 had to approve/reject holding constitutional conventions in each of the thirteen states to debate ratification of the Constitution. The conventions began while copies of the Constitution were distributed for publication in newspapers. Citizens in various states objected to features in the Constitution and some wrote essays for publication in newspapers. The resulting collection under various pseudonyms is called the Anti-federalist Papers. Together, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison responded, each signing “Publius,” and the collection is called the Federalist Papers. They are often cited in court cases and essays, but serve only as opinion. Yet many writers who cite “the founding fathers” imply Publius--that marketing committee of three.
            Some state ratification-conventions, reacting to their State Constitutions, required that a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitution as a condition to ratify—could not be convinced that the US Constitution preserves personal rights to the citizens. James Madison promised to run for office then draft the Bill of Rights. In the meantime, many citizens quoted the Declaration of Independence to claim citizens’ rights and a Christian nation (even though language in the Declaration is deist and the Declaration was for independence from England rather than rights among citizens). Many citizens objected without success to the fact that the constitution does not invoke the Christian god and his son, Jesus.  By June 21, 1788, the required nine states had ratified, with 67% of total votes. So ratification was accomplished by 69% of the States with 67% of their delegates or 46% of the potential delegates of 13 states. Thus, the 1788 ratification was by a minority of delegates. After ratification, other states joined the USA under the constitution. By the time the Bill of Rights was ratified, December 15, 1791, the USA had fourteen states, and the negotiated constitution was complete for the first time. With the constitution complete, it may be appropriate to figure out who the founding fathers were, but I can’t guess. If we knew, could we understand their opinions and agree to apply their opinions for our times? I think not! However, judges and lawyers and professors belabor these points at a civic people's expense.
            Regardless, we are citizens and have the duty to maintain the constitution for the USA. We have 226 years and 27 Amendments and other civic evidences: therefore our opinions may be more valid and important than James Madison’s opinions. In fact, I am more interested in my neighbor’s opinions, because I already know I disagree with James Madison on some issues--many issues. For example, I reject his opinion that to be a good citizen I must first be a theist and not only that a Christian. See “Memorial and Remonstrance,” wherein Madison states, "Before any man can be considerd as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe." I reject Madison's claim, but it helps me understand his religious tyranny, expressed in the First Amendment. I do not want freedom of religion, an institution; I want freedom of thought.
 
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 defense, 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."

            I see seven direct and two tacit goals in this civic statement. The paraphrase according to me is: Citizens who commit to nine goals, stated herein, limit the USA.  Let me explain, phrase by phrase, not to convince readers about my opinions, but to encourage formation of personal opinion.
            The first phrase starts with a special font for three words which have come to represent the majority of voters, “we, the people,” quoting President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address. However, the complete phrase is “We the People of the United States,” thanks to Gouverneur Morris. One of the purposes of this blog is to promote the thought that the complete phrase represents commitment to the preamble, whereas the shortened phrase means whatever each citizen says it means, usually, “the majority voters,” but often “Christian voters.” Nowadays, it's "anything I want" voters. Winning elections does not necessarily lead to civic governance, because elected representatives make decisions according to personal or party agenda rather than the civic needs of their constituents.
            A second importance of the complete phrase, “We the People of the United States,” addresses what is being governed: the people of their states govern the country--the USA. Thus, each citizen has the duty to oversee governance of both their state and their country. State constitutions also stipulate local governance—of cities and towns and counties/parishes. In the sense that every citizen governs the country, America is a nation. But in the sense that citizens govern their state, America is a federation of states. The constitution for the USA limits what the nation can do respecting both the states and the people.
            The phrase “in order to,” indicates intent or purpose. Therefore, only citizens who share this purpose may claim they are of “We the People of the United States.” For example, the citizen who does not want peace is of “the people” subject to the rule of law. They suffer the law if their conduct to destroy peace is discovered and may reform by change to collaboration for peace. The preamble’s purpose is comprised of nine goals.
            The catalog of goals seems dated in language but perhaps sufficient in number and civic importance. For example, some governments claim tens of goals, some more personal than civic. I want to understand the original goals better, but so far, my nine, short reminders of what I could commit to are:  continuity, integrity, justice, civic morality, defense, prosperity, liberty, lawfulness, and refinement. These are civic goals, designed to foster domestic safety but provide for cooperative autonomy, and mutual civic accommodation. "Continuity" refers to taking care of posterity--children, grandchildren and beyond. "Collaboration" refers to advancing the constitution for the USA as humankind improves its understanding and behavior.
            With fulfillment of the preamble, every citizen could pursue happiness as they perceive it, not in social conformance or subjugation to tyranny. For example, Muslims in Murfreesboro, Tennessee would not be challenged to prove that Islam is a religion nor would a civic people suffer the cost of such legal proceedings. The first goal, formerly the seventh--continuity, refers to preservation into perpetuity. Continuity seems neglected in today’s accumulation of national debt, avarice for the funds spent on education, protection of child abusers, and other neglect of children.
            Some citizens of “We the People of the United States” commit to the nine goals, and they naturally practice civic self-governance. That is, members conduct their lives so they don’t breach any of the nine goals. In privacy, such a citizen has complete freedom to pursue the happiness they perceive. In public, they still pursue personal happiness but govern themselves to accommodate each other citizens’ pursuit of the happiness they perceive. Think of the traffic-light analogy: drivers stop at red lights so that they can safely pass through the green light. Similarly, both opposite sex couples and same-sex couples opt for civil unions, leaving private practices--religions and traditions--to manage and conduct marriage according to their particular doctrine. Compromises like that are required of citizens because 1) they happen to be born in the country that has the preamble as a civic governing principle and 2) they recognize that mutual accommodation assures them the safety to pursue happiness as they perceive it, not under oppression. The possibility to live in peace according to personal opinion and allow neighbors the same opportunity is available, but so far, has not happened.
            The last phrase, “do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America,” addresses the laws and institutions that organize the government that the citizens manage. Just citizens see to it that the three levels of civic governance—self-control and both state and federal management—are efficient and mutually accommodating. Just citizens are also efficient at mutual accommodation: they are good neighbors. Good neighbors work together to foster good conduct. When a citizen deviates as some undeniably do, he/she suffers the law but is expected to reform. With widespread celebration and practice of the preamble, awareness of cooperative autonomy and mutual civic accommodation would increase.
 
Legal Status
 
            Readers can get a good idea of common regard for the preamble in the Wikipedia article.[3] One gets the impression that the literal use of the preamble might not hold up in a court case, but I don’t think anyone knows. Federalist 84 asserts a literal translation, but that is the only source I have found that would support the literal use in legal applications. Contrary to the preamble, the articles of the constitution for the USA specify a system that forces citizens to accept whatever their representatives decide. Reform is needed. However, amending the constitution is not my objective. I simply want to promote widespread use of the preamble, a civic sentence.
            If most citizens in all of the minorities in America adopted the preamble as their civic regulator for accommodating each other while each citizen enjoys cooperative autonomy, there would be a new majority--a transcending culture of a civic people. In the USA, the majority of citizens would know they have good neighbors wherever they go in the country, because they govern themselves in civic morality and manage both their states and the nation to fulfill the preamble. Quoting Abraham Lincoln’s question in his First Inaugural Address, “Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world?” I am sincere in this trust and commitment: a civic people will emerge.
 
Proposal
 
            I propose, in the future, a two-day, national holiday to celebrate and promote “We the People of the United States” as defined in the preamble. My first choice is Ratification Day, June 21 and my second choice is Constitution Day, September 17. Throughout the year, conduct online and direct communications between the new majority citizens, “We the People of the United States” as defined in the preamble. Require politicians to base their platforms on fulfillment of the preamble.

Copyright©2014 by Phillip R. Beaver. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for the publication of all or portions of this paper as long as this complete copyright notice is included. Revised August 22, 2015.