English language experts wrote the United States Constitution. When those authors wrote — “in order to form a more perfect Union” — they were making a hard and specific point that is lost on many of us today.
From a purely grammatical perspective, “in order to form a more perfect Union” doesn’t make sense because the word “perfect” is not a comparative, it is an absolute — just as the phrase “more unique” doesn’t make sense because the word “unique” is also an absolute.
What, then, were our forefathers trying to teach us about the real meaning of that phrase? They knew something we do not!
Our founding fathers knew that human beings are imperfect and, because the Constitution was written by them — imperfect people, too — it too, was imperfect and, by definition, unfinished and flawed and open to interpretation. Our Constitution was written to be a breathable document. Our Constitution was drafted to change with the times and to provide a basis for thinking and not something that was strict and absolute.
We must be wary of people who use the “strict Constitutionalist” argument for appointing judges and ruling — We The People — because the Constructionists are building their reasoning on a purposefully flawed notion that was originally intended to guide us without mandating. Deconstructing the Constitution to pull out bits of it to serve a narrow political purpose is precisely not what the document was intended to inspire. In fact, the document clearly condemns that sort of thinking against action.
We must also be aware of cunning charlatans who will use our most famous document as bus advertising for their personal profiteering on the backs of regular Americans.
Our Constitution was written to live and breathe to be free. Don’t let anyone persuade you against that American ideal. Our forefathers wrote the Constitution, not to restrict us to a certain place and time, but to demand that we keep thinking as our lives of this nation expand.
We, and our Constitution, are works in progress, and the clue to that thinking is embedded right there in the document in a purposeful, and thrilling, grammatical error — “in order to form a more perfect Union” — and the ongoing moral duty falls to us to accept there will always be more work to do, and we owe it to each other, We The People, to facilitate an open interpretation of a piece of paper that was intended to refine us, not just define us.
Well writ, David. I love the notion of perfecting the Union on an ongoing basis.
The Constitution is definitely something we need to fight to keep open to interpretation, Gordon!
Speaking from a nation that does not have an actual Constitution – I have some thoughts that have always stuck with me in regards to the US Constitution and Constitutions in general.
The concept of a Constitution is that it is the living breathing foundation of what forms that entity of Nationhood. Who has ever said that it cannot change? If there is any problem with Strict Constitutionists would be that they are taking not only the Constitution as unchanging as much as many of them are ultra-conservatives and evangalists whom do not consider the Bible or God’s teachings as living, breathing and thus growing.
If one speaks with a member of the uS Supreme Court they will tell you about interpretation, Amendments and that the “spirit behind the Constitition” is important, in a sense the text is not.
It is from this that we can certainly say that it was not created by perfect people but in fact inperfect people and that was part of the reason behind the creation of the United States – that elitism and self-congratulatory leaders from a natio over the sea whom believed themselves “perfect” was not going to be a part of the new Nation called the United States of America.
Ironically, what we may have in some is a view of elitism, self-congratulatory leadership and exceptionalism that flies in the face of that original message – and what do they want to do, mistakenly cement a growing living Constitution into cement and in some sense – kill it.
PS, the English language grows as well and in the language of the 18th century the only absolute was the word “God” as it was the Church that owned the dictionary until a man called Webster defined language absolutes from a purely literal point of view – or should we say secular?
D Charles QC
I would argue the text is all we have an it is only the text that matters. The authors are dead. To place our minds in the coffins of our forefathers and ascribe “intention” to their words is foolish. They lived then. We live now. Their text was purposefully written to be open to reinterpretation, but their original intention remains the same — locked in antiquity and dead.
When I read about Supreme Court justices invoking “original intent” to punish people today, I cringe, because the “original intent” is printed right there on the page to be read as is and applied with the current wisdom and morality of our time.
Adendum, I forget to mention that Webster was American.