I once heard that Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying that “Government and the Consitution need to be totally re done every 100 years.” First did he say that? Second, it could be possibly a good idea, how does everyone feel about it? Third, Could it actually be done?
Cool, a nice easy question. Let me finish eating my Snickers bar, and I’ll dash off a response.
“I’m not an actor, but I play one on TV.”
Well, the thing has been ammended 27 times in the past 212 years. Personally, my only problem with the Constitution involves my neighbor–D.C. The United States is the only democaracy in the world that denies voting representation to residents of the capital city. Argue all you want about whether D.C. should be a state or given back to Maryland, it’s been given a raw deal and something ought to be done about it.
Actually, I don’t see forsee any particular ammendements getting passed, except perhaps (God forbid!) the flag desecration ammendment. (When will these veterans realize that they fought for this country PRECISELY so that people who hate it can burn the flag in protest? That’s what separates us from tyrannies that don’t allow political dissent!) If there’s ever another fluke that allows the House of Representatives to pick a President who is not the popular vote-winner, (as in the case of John Quincy Adams), or where the electoral collage winner loses the popular vote (as in the case of Benjamin Harrison), there will probably be a movement to reform the way we elect our Presidents.
I would guess if there is a convention called to rewrite the constitution it will be over abortion or gun control. These two issues have partisans on both sides of the argument and are based on interpretations of the current language of the constitution. I could see advocates on either side of either issue wanted the constitution rewritten to explicitly support their position.
Rewriting the constitution would be incongruous assembled.
Although many people feel very passionate about abortion, I would be extremely surprised if there was enough support in three-fourths of the state legislatures to get an ammendment passed–either a pro-life ammendment prohibiting it or a pro-choice ammendment enshrining Roe vs. Wade.
Since, as Cecil has pointed out in Triumph of the Straight Dope, the Second Ammendment already guarantees the right to bear arms, the only ammendment movement would be by gun control advocates seeking to repeal it. Few gun-control advocates favor doing that, and even if they did, I doubt it would garner that much support.
However, a flag desecration ammendment has dangerously come close to passing the U.S. Congress and going to the states for ratification. I have the utmost respect for veterans who put their lives on the line for this country, but it scares me that many of them believe that a piece of cloth is more important than the freedom that that piece of cloth represents.
The current language of the second amendment is “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
There are people who feel there is some ambiguity in this statement because of the militia reference. I’m sure most gun control
opponents would be happier if the amendment simply read “There will be no law infringing the right of individual persons to keep and bear arms.” On the other hand, gun control advocates would be happy either seeing the amenedment eliminated in its entirity or rewritten as “The right of a well regulated militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Edward Cunningham has made two references to veterans being a main force pushing for a anti-desecration amendment. Is this true? I’ve always been under the impression that most of these “super patriot” issues are pushed by non-veterans. In my observation, most veterans know they have done their part to protect this country and don’t feel the need to promote extreme causes to prove themselves.
>>I once heard that Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying that “Government and the Consitution need to be totally re done every 100 years.” >>
If you do not apply his “tree of liberty” quote here, Jefferson’s two most famous post-Revolution quotes on the subject of resistance to/rebelling against government are as follows:
“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not at all”
—Feb. 22, 1787 (letter)
“A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
—Jan. 30, 1787 (referring specifically to Shay’s Rebellion)
Just to show that no one is above hypocracy it’s interesting to note that Jefferson made all these radical pronouncements BEFORE he became part of the Federal Government. Once he joined Washington’s cabinet he kept his opinions inside the cabnet room. During his brief time in the political wilderness he was espousing his usual revolutionary retoric. His enthusiasm for revolution was again subdued when he went to the White House in 1801.
No, no, Dex, that would be if they decided to declare their ten dependents.
I’m sure that there are non-veterans groups that also (wrongfully) support a flag desecration ammendment, but I know that at least one veterans’ group-the American Legion- supports such an ammendment. I have also got the impression from op-ed articles that one of the reasons politicians are pushing this ammendment is to appease veterans groups.
If anybody knows of a veterans group that opposes this ammendment, please let me know and I will withdraw my earlier statement.
Whatever Ron Kovic’s group of Vietnam vets is called, I bet they’re against any flag-desecration amendment.
>>Just to show that no one is above hypocracy it’s interesting to note that Jefferson made all these radical pronouncements BEFORE he became part of the Federal Government.>>
Hypocritical though he may have been, it should be pointed out that Jefferson was serving as the Minister to France when he made both of these statements. After the Revolution he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, served with Franklin and Adams as delegates to Paris to negotiate trade treaties, and then served as Minister to France from 1785-1789 before joining Washington’s cabinet.
>> Once he joined Washington’s cabinet he kept his opinions inside the cabnet room. During his brief time in the political wilderness he was espousing his usual revolutionary retoric. His enthusiasm for revolution was again subdued when he went to the White House in 1801>>
It was certainly subdued when it came to his first Vice President.
[[Edward Cunningham has made two references to veterans being a main force pushing for a anti-desecration amendment. Is this true? I’ve always been under the impression that most of these “super patriot” issues are pushed by non-veterans. In my observation, most veterans know they have done their part to protect this country and don’t feel the need to promote extreme causes to prove themselves. ]]
I don’t know about the balance of veterans’ opinions, but it’s an issue like the death penalty, more valuable to some politicians as an issue than as a reality.
Finally, a topic right down my alley!
On repealing the second amendment and gun control:
I have not read Cecil’s proclamation on the subject, but, if he in fact said that all you had to do was repeal the Second Amendment, then you could legal control guns, then he should do some more research. While superficially, that might appear true, scholars would definitely argue the point.
If you read the history of the Constitution ratification debate, you’ll discover there were two important schools of thought on the utility of the Bill of Rights. One school was steadfastly opposed to adopting the Bill of Rights because of the exact concern raised by the position attributed to Cecil. They were concerned that the Bill of Rights would be looked at as a rights limiting device.
Let me 'splain. If you look at the political thought prevailing at the time and that which most of the founders endorsed in one form or another, it was rooted in Natural Rights. We could have a whole 'nother thread dedicated to what Natural Rights means, but, in general it is taken by most to mean that Human Beings have inherent Rights that arise from simply being, No government imparts those rights, rather, they simply exist and belong to everybody. That is where the phrase “endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights” arises from. Lets gloss over Natural Rights vs. Inalienable Rights and treat them as more or less the same.
Government was viewed as usurping those rights from time immemorial with a monarch parceling out rights as he/she chose. The Magna Carta started the ball rolling, and the new Republic would approach rights differently. The new Constitution was viewed as something of a social contract. People (actually States, but lets keep this short) gave up certain limited rights in exchange for the benefits of a common government. Thus, “We the People”. We the People were highly suspicious of the new government so they also sought to “secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity”. You can see right from the Pre-amble that the Constitution was meant to be a government limiting instrument. The powers given over by the people were viewed as very limited in scope.
The other school of thought was that the Bill of Rights was necessary because they wanted all the rights to be explicit. They thought of each right in the bill in very expansive terms and gave them additional assurance that the new government would trample those rights. That makes the whole argument about right to bear arms only in the context of militia almost hilarious if it were not so dangerous.
If you look at things the way they were designed, it becomes obvious that the only way to legally control guns is to amend the constitution to allow it. We would probably repeal the 2nd Amendment for clarity’s sake and replace it with whatever non-sense the misguided gun nazis want.
The Trustworthy Troglodyte
tplank, now for the next part of your test. Let’s say the 2nd Amendment is repealed without a successor. Let’s say Natural Rights manage a successful comeback, and our federal lawmakers decide not to try to restrict gun ownership. What happens if those pesky little states start trying to limit or end gun ownership?
(BTW, lovely summary of the old school view of rights.)
If Natural Rights ever makes a “comeback” (of course it never really went anywhere) then the states wouldn’t try to limit gun ownership.
But, to answer your question, the States are sovereign too and rest on their individual constitutions. So the analysis would inevitably be state by state. Most state constitutions would have to be amended, I am sure, to allow for gun control.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m talking about sound law not reality. In reality, most of the laws on the books are unconstitutional, but we have allowed it because of our collective ignorance. I’m sure there are enough gun-Nazis in Pennsylvania, for instance, to get a law on the books that would never be challenged.
As always, it is up to us to protect our rights.
The Trustworthy Troglodyte
Thanks. The reason I described natural rights as needing a comeback is that it seems several of our Supreme Court justices prefer the view that we only have rights found in the Bill of Rights.
It’ll be quite a day when law begins to match reality.
Alas, nobody seems to care about civil rights anymore. We are having our rights eroded daily by the morons in Washington DC, and no one seems to care.
America shrugged, indeed.
… I may move to New Zealand yet.
The Trustworthy Troglodyte