Sanctimonious Reverence for the Constitution

I’m not one of those people who view the US Constitution as divinely inspired, who view the Founding Fathers as Fairytale Land superheroes, and who insist all would be well if we would just get back to doing things the way the Founders did them. The Constitution is a living document, designed to evolve over time to meet the needs and desires of the current and future generations. The Constitution is not set in stone, to be followed only as originally written. We are not bound by the dictates of our ancestors.

On the other hand, the Constitution is to be respected. Those Founding Fathers were an unusually gifted assortment of thinkers and dreamers, who happened to be in the same place at the same time. I respect them greatly. But they weren’t infallible, no matter what Glenn Beck tells us.

With that in mind, here is a quote from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote:

Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment….

Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors….

Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. It has then, like them, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness.

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