I have often considered it unfortunate that those who call the US Constitution a “Living” document, do so to argue for the flexibility of its meaning. When I first heard the term “Living Constitution,” it brought a completely different picture into my mind.
For me, the Constitution lives because the founders built it on consistent truths of the human condition. It lives in us because it was the first governing document which crafted a constituted government designed to keep men free yet built for how men actually are.
It lives because it affords a way to adjust to new, unforeseen realities while still making it extremely difficult to frustrate its fundamental premise. It lives because it was the culmination of the combined ideas and experiences of a revolutionary generation, building upon the promises of enlightenment thinkers and the liberating themes of Judeo-Christian beliefs.
I often reflect on what idea, what premise, the founders most firmly built our nation upon. I think upon all the political and philosophical themes of America’s founding and, while there are a great many contenders, I usually settle upon their belief that certain truths were timeless.
The Declaration of Independence, which I consider the Greater Preamble to the US Constitution, begins with a simple but powerful statement, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” To fully grasp the power of this statement, the context must be understood.
The Declaration was a letter to a King. It was a letter to a King whose Parliament had sought to reduce his Colonial subjects to a second-class state. It took repeated abuse over many years to build an American identity. Even as the Continental Congress debated and ratified the Declaration, many of its members had difficulty seeing themselves as anything but Englishmen.
In fact, it was to their perceived rights as Englishmen that early patriots had initially rallied in defense of. They saw themselves as English subjects and entitled to the same rights and privileges of their fellow countrymen in England.
To them, the separation of a vast ocean did not lessen their claim upon the fundamental truths of liberty. They did not divorce themselves from England, its Monarch, and its Parliament until it became devastatingly clear the only way to preserve their liberty was by crafting a new nation.
Today, there are various voices on all sides of the aisle who preach a new path. The values and moors of the US Constitution, they claim, are not sufficient to the challenges of our time. They see the brick and mortar of our Constitutional Republic as impediments to immediate and effective action. Their theme is a growing belief that the Constitution is an aged document designed for the governance of a by-gone age.
But just as the founding generation felt the great expanse of an ocean could not change fundamental truths or erase inherent and unalienable rights, I do not feel the passing of years lessens the power of the ideals proclaimed in the founding documents and paid for in the blood of those who loved liberty more than life.
The US Constitution is a living and timeless document. Not because it is somewhat flexible to the needs of a changing society. But because it is built on living and timeless truths. These truths live in my heart and the hearts of many liberty-loving Americans, even if they sometimes lay dormant. I can think of no greater tragedy than to unmoor our government from those truths in a short-sighted attempt to solve whichever crisis rules the passions and fears of our people.
As Abraham Lincoln once famously urged a nation in crisis, let us re-dedicate ourselves to liberty over all other concerns. Let us resolve to hold the precepts of the US Constitution as sacred, for it is the bulwark which protects and preserves our liberties. Let us hold fast to the foundations of our free republic, and not tear away at the brick and mortar of that foundation by giving in to the demands of demagogues who agitate us with fear and hatred.