By Joel Matthews
There has been much talk over the past year about what our Founding Fathers intended for this great nation when they wrote the Constitution, Bill of Rights and several of the constitutional amendments. Their words now affect modern issues of gun control, campaign financing, taxes, social service programs and health care, to name a few.
The Founding Fathers were men of many varying view points and visions of the future. These men were also of different levels of education and social backgrounds. Yet we sit here in today’s society and attempt to read their minds and interpret their thoughts and intentions to solve issues and problems of our day. I have taken note of one common thread among them that I have not seen taken into account. It is something common to all of them from John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson to dozens of other notable men. It is common to every president who presided over major constitutional amendments from George Washington to Franklin Roosevelt.
That one thing is that they are all dead. They are no longer here. What they intended was for their time. We are of our time, the living and the now. We should be interpreting the laws for what is best for our current society and the communities we live in now. Our history should be there for our learning, not as an impediment to our progress as a people and a nation. Is it so inconceivable that laws written 200 years ago, 100 years ago or even 50 years ago lack a practical application to our nation today? When I hear someone say “That is what our Founding Fathers envisioned.” I say, “WHO CARES what they envisioned?” Their visions were of a country and society of 200 years ago. Is it so hard to conceive that they could not have comprehended the world we live in now or that some of their concepts might lack practical application in today’s civil community?
Many consider the Constitution to be a “living document”. Well, if that is true, it should be able to just stand up and tell us what it means. I won’t be holding my breath. Some hold it up as though it were a holy document and preach it like religious dogma. Do we consider these men who authored it infallible gods of democracy? Is it not even possible that they could not have conceived how their words would be interpreted and played out in our time? We are living now. The Constitution was actually so imperfect that we have added over a dozen amendments in the last one hundred years. We need to conceive and articulate what type of society and community we want to live in today.
The Preamble of the Constitution states, “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,….” This is the key to the entire document. If we accept this as their original intention and the true foundation of this country then our true desire is to build on that foundation with all the words and amendments that follow. When nine individuals in black robes interpret any of the words following the Preamble in such a way that disrupts the domestic tranquility, divides the union, causes us to question justice and overlooks the general welfare and safety of all the people, then I say this: We the People of today’s United States……need to consider some changes to this 220 year old piece of paper.