Friday, December 19, 2014
9: Refine the United States Constitution
The 1787 preamble states that “We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” It was ratified on June 21, 1788, establishing the USA. Congress executed according to its opinions the agreed amendment in 1791. The 1791 Constitution has been amended often, and is further compromised by both judicial opinion and unchallenged federal action. So, if people of today want to modify the preamble for modern purposes, what would be the purpose of the goals already discussed, or perhaps tacit goals of a civic people?
One thought is to refine the Constitution. Discovering and improving both obsolescence and injustice is a winnowing process. This would relieve concern that the American’s Creed states a belief in a government rather than a people.
There’s another problem with the critical last phrase of the preamble: the preposition “for.” The 1787 delegates were sent to Philadelphia by the Continental Congress to improve the Articles of Confederation. The title designated by the Articles of Confederation was “The United States of America.” So, the preposition “for” seems to fulfill the commission, with the exception that the delegates proposed to replace the Articles of Confederation. The preposition could be taken to imply that “We the People of the United States” does not indicate the inhabitants and is merely a metaphor for the Continental Congress. Patrick Henry’s heartfelt entreaty to replace “We the People of the United States,” with “We the States,” indicates resistance to control by anything but the Union of States, or its designated leadership, the Continental Congress.
However, when nine of thirteen states ratified the 1787 Constitution, on June 21, 1788, the primacy of the Continental Congress was dissolved into powers balanced between the executive, the Congress, and the Court. The USA began operations with ten states on March 4, 1789. Three states remained free and independent. That balance of powers survived the Bill of Rights, which was ratified on December 15, 1791 with 14 states, completing the intended United States Constitution.
The Constitution grants the federal government limited, designated powers, all other powers being reserved to the States or the people. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 84 claims, “Here . . . the people surrender nothing.” This point perhaps clarifies the meaning of the phrase “We the People of the United States,” instead of simply “We the People.” Thus, the people in the states comprise the inhabitants of the nation, and practice discipline, if they will.
The reality that not all persons want to use the purpose and goals stated in the preamble is represented by the proposed phrase, a civic people, to represent those who use it for civic discipline, keeping religious pursuits private. Thus, a person may suffer the law on illegal conduct but cannot suffer for either civic opinions or private thoughts and practices that cause no harm. Following a tradition of 2/3 affirmation of the preamble, we hope 2/3 of inhabitants will be of a civic people.
As a starting point for discussion, we propose that the predicate phrases in the 1787 preamble be changed to nouns. We offer for collaboration this proposal for a 2018 adaptation. We the willing citizens of the United States collaborate for self-discipline in integrity, justice, defense, prosperity, liberty, and child development and by this amendable constitution limit the USA's service to us in our states.
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 July 2, 2018