Constitutional Comments



"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, do ordain and establish this, Constitution for the United States of America." --Preamble to the U.S. Constitution



"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce. ... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State." --James Madison in Federalist Paper No. 45 (See Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, and its Bill of Rights, particularly the Tenth Amendment.)



"The Constitution on which our Union rests, shall be administered ... according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the plain understanding of the people of the United States at the time of its adoption...." --Thomas Jefferson ++ "The Constitution which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all." --George Washington {} "...I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt, too, whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution." --Benjamin Franklin {} "I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition." --Thomas Jefferson ++ "Nothing has yet been offered to invalidate the doctrine that the meaning of the Constitution may as well be ascertained by the Legislative as by the Judicial authority." --James Madison {} "The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust." --Alexander Hamilton & James Madison ++ "...[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." --Samuel Adams {} "The whole of that Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals.... [I]t establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of." --Albert Gallatin ++ "In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." -- Thomas Jefferson {} "A constitution founded on these principles introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal." --John Adams ++ "There is a higher law than the Constitution." --William H. Seward



"Let this day always be a reminder to our nation, to the world, why we fight in freedom's cause and why we must fight and win this global war on terror." --Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ++ "The Constitution was never meant to prevent people from praying; its declared purpose was to protect their freedom to pray." --Ronald Reagan ++ " America's Founders endowed our Republic with sound principles and a framework for governing that is unmatched in the history of mankind. The prosperity and freedom of America can only be made secure if they are guided by a return to these basic principles as our country enters the 21st Century." --The Claremont Institute ++ "Thus the U.S. Constitution has a long history behind it -- it is part of our American tradition, and we should be proud of it. But we should not respect the Constitution simply because it is tradition. There are, after all, bad traditions. Rather, as American citizens we have a duty to understand the Constitution as fully as possible -- which means understanding the principles upon which it was built. ... The Constitution was based on the idea of an unchanging human nature. That idea is best captured in the Declaration of Independence, and its statement that all human beings possess equal rights by nature. The idea of equal natural rights is not only the ground for government by consent, but also sets the limit for what that government may rightfully do. If rights precede the formation of government, the primary goal of government is to secure those rights. It cannot grant them, nor can it violate them. To achieve this, government must protect individuals equally under the law." --Thomas L. Krannawitter ++ "'Why We Fight' is a question that a free people are compelled to answer not merely by invoking the imperatives of self-preservation but also by reminding themselves of their blessings and, correspondingly, their duties. ... Chief among our blessings is the United States Constitution. ... Human dignity; the rule of law; the equal rights of men and women; limited government; separation of powers; the consent of the governed; due process of law; separation of church and state; freedom of speech and religion -- these are the glories of our constitutional order. To the tyrants who struck New York and Washington, however, these are a syllabus of errors." --Charles R. Kesler



"I had a copy of the Soviet Constitution and I read it with great interest. And I saw all kinds of terms in there that sound just exactly like our own: 'Freedom of assembly' and 'freedom of speech' and so forth. Of course, they don't allow them to have those things, but they're in there in the constitution. But I began to wonder about the other constitutions -- everyone has one -- and our own, and why so much emphasis on ours. And then I found out, and the answer was very simple -- that's why you don't notice it at first. But it is so great that it tells the entire difference. All those other constitutions are documents that say, 'We, the government, allow the people the following rights,' and our Constitution says 'We the People, allow the government the following privileges and rights.' We give our permission to government to do the things that it does. And that's the whole story of the difference--why we're unique in the world and why no matter what our troubles may be, we're going to overcome." --Ronald Reagan



The Left... "The genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it might have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and current needs." --Former Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. ++ "We look to the history of the time of framing and to intervening history of interpretation. But the ultimate question must be, what do the words of the text mean in our time." --William J. Brennan, Jr. ++ "We current justices read the Constitution in the only way that we can: as 20th-century Americans." --William J. Brennan, Jr.

The Right... "Our Constitution was not written in the sands to be washed away by each wave of new judges blown in by each successive political wind." --Hugo L. Black ++ "The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of the people." --William O. Douglas ++ "There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all." --Antonin Scalia ++ "The ultimate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution itself and not what we have said about it." --Felix Frankfurter