“The Unalienable Rights of the People are Most Likely to be Preserved if the Principles of Government are Set Forth in a Written Constitution.”
by: Charity Angel
It was the Norman conquest that taught the Anglo-Saxons in England a bitter lesson. A majority of their treasured rights disappeared through the flood of blood and oppression. They did regain them very slowly over a period of time, a few centuries, and gradually were written down. In A.D. 1215, King John virtually had a sword held to his throat, due to the national crisis, and signed the Magna Charta, which set forth the traditional rights of the freemen as well as the feudal barons who had been serving under King John.
During that same century, the model parliament came into being which compelled the King to acknowledge that principle of no taxation without representation. Later, in 1628, Charles I was pressured into signing the People's Petition of Rights and the English Bill of Rights was signed in 1689 by William and Mary.
Through the centuries, the British have tried to manage the political affairs with no written constitution and relied on these few documents as a source of reference. They did prove very helpful to the Founders, but they felt that the structure of government should be structured in a more permanent and comprehensive form. So, the tradition if a written constitution in modern times is completely American in principle and practice.
The first written charter for America was the Mayflower Compact of 1620. If became more comprehensive when Thomas Hooker and his associates adopted the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut in 1639. The charter makes no reference to the British Government nor the Crown, but the source of its authority as “We, the people.”
Montesquieu said that the writing of a statute or a charter is “oftentimes better regulated by many than by a single person.” The Founders agreed with this idea and considered it wise to filter it through the wisdom and experience of many delegates assembled in a convention rather then leaving it to the genius of some individual.
James Madison stated, “It is not a little remarkable that in every case reported by ancient history in which government has been established with deliberation and consent, the task of framing it has not been committed to an assembly of men, but has been performed by some individual citizen of preeminent wisdom and approved integrity. Minos, we learn, was the primitive founder of the government of Crete, as Zaleucus was of that of the Locrians. Theseus first, and after him Draco and Solon, instituted the government of Athens. Lycurgus was the lawgiver of Sparta. The foundation of the original government of Rome was laid by Romulus, and the work completed by two of his elective successors, Numa and Tullius Hostilius. On the abolition of royalty the consular administration was substituted by Brutus, who stepped forward with a project for such reform, which, he alleged, had been prepared by Servius Tullius, and to which his address ontained the assent and ratification of the senate and people. This remark is applicable to confederate governments also. Amphictyon, we are told, was the author of that which bore his name. The Achaean league received its first birth from Achaeus, and its second from Aratus.”
It is always difficult to operate through a committee, a group, or a convention as the Founding Fathers did. The final product was far stronger then any individual alone could have written it. And time has also proven the incredible value have having a written document for reference, a standard, rather then relying on a few scattered statutes as the fundamental law of the land.
The 28 Principles of Liberty are adapted from W. Cleon Skousen's Book 'The 5000 Year Leap' and are brought to you by Fragrant Smoke.
Learn the 28 Principles of Liberty