Original intent

Discussion in 'Politics' started by jafl, Jun 23, 2009.

  1. jafl

    jafl Well-Known Member

    Even though I am a conservative I do not accept the idea of original intent. But then the “conservatives” you most often meet on the net are libertarians, not conservatives. Conservatives see nothing wrong with letting the government do what needs to be done when the private sector either cannot or will not do it. If government action is necessary to preserve a stable, functional and self-perpetuating society, so be it.

    To this end conservatives do not have the libertarians’ pathological fear of government for government’s sake. Conservatives understand that it is necessary for the government to have broad powers that it can draw on to meet any contingency that the current generation may not anticipate in the next.

    Thus the Constitution is a living document, and the leaders of the country’s original conservative party, the Federalists, knew this. But their support for the idea of the Constitution as a living document is either not known to or simply ignored by libertarians.


    "No society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation…Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.” —Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to James Madison from Paris, September 6, 1789)

    “It would give me singular pleasure to see [this principle] first announced in the proceedings of the U. States, and always kept in their view, as a salutary curb on the living generation from imposing unjust or unnecessary burdens on their successors.”
    —James Madison (responding to Jefferson’s letter from New York, February 4, 1790)

    “The warmest friends and best supporters the Constitution has, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but they found them unavoidable and are sensible, if evil is likely to arise there from, the remedy must come hereafter; for in the present moment, it is not to be obtained; and as there is a Constitutional door open for it, I think the People (for it is with them to Judge) can as they will have the advantage of experience on their Side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which are necessary [as] ourselves. I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue, than those who will come after us.”
    —George Washington (in a letter to Bushrod Washington, November 10, 1797)

    “That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety…; and, whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.”
    —George Mason (in Article One of Virginia’s original Constitution, 1776)

    I understand that Jefferson did not participate in the Constitutional Convention and that Mason did not sign the document even though he was a delegate to the Constitution. But this hasn’t stopped libertarians on the net from using the likes of Jefferson as indicators of “original intent”.
  2. Herbalpagan

    Herbalpagan Well-Known Member

    I do not agree with you. The Costitution is not a "living document", it is simply a statement of principles that govern our laws and grants us our rights as citizens. While I think much of it is self explainitory, "original intent" is occassionally needed to see why the makers of the document did it in that way.
    Unlike the current and more recent governments, the rights and laws in it are not vague, and able to be changed or interpreted in more or less restrictive ways. -for ex.: a food safety law that specifies "farms" but does not state the size of said farm. A more common arguement arises with gun rights/ the 2nd ammendment. In this case, one must understand original intent. The founders wanted to have the citizens well armed so that they could not ever have a hard time arising to confront the govenrment if it became nessesary. To do this, one must have the right to bear arms in such manner that they could fight the government. This is not an act of treason, but a way to make sure we are never subjects or subjected to tyranny again. This ammendment was not put in place merely so Billy Bob could get his yearly deer. It is important to understand that.
    I have watched your posts, and you state the you are conservative. Well, it's all relative. I'm sure to your liberal friends, you are conservative. To me, you scream liberal. I am a Constitutionalist. I believe this country was founded on the principles, rights and laws granted to us in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I believe it was made with the purpose of preventing big govenrment. I make no apologies for that fact. I am not particularly a Libertarian, although I am leaning that way. I spent the first 40 years of my life defending,campaigning and voting Republican (except for one instance). I am not your typical Republican/conservative...I try never to wear navy suits (lol), I believe that abortion is a choice that a woman and her partner must make and have a right to make (though I feel couseling should be availably as it will affect them for the rest of their lives). I believe that stem cell research and therapy may help a lot of people and should be explored (though I do wonder if it might at some point lead to unneeded deaths to get those stem cells). I do not think the Republican way is the only way to go. I am not Christian, and believe that freedom of religion means ANY religion. I do believe in state soveriegnty, less government and more control over politicians. I believe in capitalism.
    I come to my beliefs after a life time of experience and a look at history, as well as common sense. I don't believe in a two party system, I think it's grossly unfair. So don't try and peg me as red,blue or white. You are not thinking, in my opinion, of the big picture, merely jumping from one contensious subject to another and argueing ad nauseum.

  3. jafl

    jafl Well-Known Member

    Then why did the likes of Hamilton (the First Bank of the United States) and Jefferson (the Louisiana Purchase) treat it as if it were?

    The vagueness of the language used in some parts of the Constitution made it inevitable that the document would be treated as a living document. Examples: No religion test to hold public office, but what is religion and why was the original document done in convention in the Year of Our Lord 1787 if religion and state were to be separate? Cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited but what is cruel and unusual punishment- why was hanging OK in the 18th century but not OK now? Congress has the power to make laws that are necessary and proper to carry out its enumerated powers, but what is necessary and proper are political issues more than constitutional/legal issues. What one person says is necessary and proper may be deemed to be unconstitutional by another and whichever side wins the political debate will determine how the Constitution is interpreted for the time being. And since the Constitution must be interpreted it is a living document.

    Furthermore, original intent implies that the men who wrote the Constitution were somehow perfect in their wisdom and their ways to the point that all later generations must pay homage to them and them alone when it comes to constitutional issues. But the men who signed the document in Philadelphia made no such claim for themselves.

    Religion, cruel and unusual punishment, a well regulated militia, free speech v. sedition- all issues that must be interpreted in the hear and now. There is no original intent.

    Your view of original intent is wrong. When the 2nd Amendment was ratified it was universally accepted in American society that people (with the exception of the people living in places like Massa Jefferson’s plantation) could and did own guns for hunting, could and did own guns to protect life and property from criminal behavior and could and did own guns and would turn out en masse with them to repel any invasion or suppress any insurrection (as Anglo-American society had been doing for almost a thousand years). It was not accepted that government could or would recognize any right of the governed to use armed force against it as long as constitutional means of petition for redress of grievances were available. The 2nd Amendment was not needed to grant anyone a right to bear arms because the right already existed. The 2nd Amendment was designed to empower the government to limit the right to bear arms, thus the well regulated militia provision. The 2nd Amendment did not grant or recognize any right that did not already exist.

    Then explain the shear terror that was caused by Shay’s Rebellion and President Washington’s suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion. If Washington believed that the American People had a right to engage in armed rebellion against the federal government, he would not have lead troops against the people that tried to do just that simply because they did not want to obey the law.

    I have no liberal friends.

    And to me you scream libertarian fool.
  4. Herbalpagan

    Herbalpagan Well-Known Member

    You are wrong, on all counts.
  5. Todays Survival Show

    Todays Survival Show Survival and Handgun Podcaster

    The Constitution is a living document. What I mean by that is that there is a process for amending it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it takes a 2/3 vote of Congress and then must be ratified by the states which requires a 2/3 vote of the states.

    So if the "people" feel the constitution needs to change, they and their government have the amendment process in place. The writers of the Constitution knew that changes may have to be made, so the amendment process was created.

    It is a living document. But not up to courts to change, not up to the President to decide, and not for a few numbskulls in Congress to decide, but rather for the people to decide through a specific process.

    Even though it's a long and hard process, it's that way for a reason. It really doesn't need much tweaking.