After the pomp and ceremony of the inauguration of the 112th Congress yesterday, the new Republican-controlled House under Speaker John Boehner will read the U.S. Constitution out loud on the floor, for the first time in history. Many, especially on the Far-Left, see this as a stunt. Merely political theater. But after all of the rancor of the past two years, namely from American citizens demanding that members of Congress ‘read the bill’, perhaps it is high time that Congress actually reads something, starting with our basic law of the land!

US Constitution

Our U.S. Constitution

Over the years, nay decades, a growing number of American elected officials seem to forget about, or outright ignore the U.S. Constitution. More and more, members of Congress answer questions by reporters concerning the Constitution with general contempt. Some, like former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, just plain dismiss any such questions as complete lunacy.

Like it or not, the U.S. Constitution exists for one simple reason, to limit the power of the Federal government. The 223-year old document, originally drafted on four sheets of large paper, outlines the specific functions and roles of each branch of our government. This is why modern politicians choose to ignore the Constitution, as it is a roadblock to what they consider to be ‘progress’.

While usually attributed mostly to James Madison, the U.S. Constitution had many authors and contributors. Lesser-known Founding Fathers like Roger Sherman of Connecticut and James Wilson of Pennsylvania played key roles in developing the framework which shapes of system of government. Thanks to our lousy education system, most people either do not know, or have long forgotten, that the United States was a nation prior to the drafting of the Constitution. Our first national government was formed under a document, the Articles of Confederation.

Talk about limited government, the Articles of Confederation secured the rights and political power of the ‘Several States’, giving the national government very little power. Each state was essentially a separate republic, or commonwealth, and acted as such. There were tariffs for transporting goods from one state to another. Each state had it’s own currency. The only military was the state militias, and there was even the growing possibility of open warfare between some of the states over border lines and other issues.

So the Founding Fathers gathered again, dragging George Washington back from public retirement, to Philadelphia to figure out a solution. After many months of a long and hotly disputed debate, the new Constitution was drafted. Considered the ‘Great Compromise’, the ‘Several States’ relinquished some of their political power to a central, Federal government. A system of checks and balances was devised, dividing power between three branches of government, the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. For the Legislative branch, Roger Sherman conceived the ‘bicameral government’ system of the House of Representatives being the ‘People’s House’ and the U.S. Senate representing the interests of the ‘Several States’.

Only 16 specific powers were given to the new Federal government by the U.S. Constitution. For the most part, the three branches of the Federal government obeyed the new Constitution during it’s first century. But time and events began to wear down many of the limits of the framework, as well as the Amendment process. The most radical changes began in 1913 when the Woodrow Wilson administration took office and began to implement it’s ‘Progressive’ agenda. Most significant was the passage of the 17th Amendment, which changed the practice of Senators being appointed by their state legislatures and having them be elected by popular ballot.

This change essentially decapitated the power of the ‘Several States’, and turned the Senate into a super-House, ripe for corruption by lobbyists and special interests. As the years ‘progressed’, more laws and changes continued to increase the power and scope of the Federal government.

Many people today believe that the U.S. Constitution is old and worn-out. Or that it is a ‘Living document’, subject to subjective interpretations. But as we have seen during the past two years, many Americans are still firm believers in the original intent of our Constitution. Enough to affect the largest turnover of incumbents in some 60 years. Incumbent Congressmen usually enjoy about a 90% re-election rate, but in 2010, the voters displayed their anger throwing over 20% of incumbents out of office. So maybe it’s not such a bad idea for members of the Congress to read and reacquaint themselves with the U.S. Constitution. The American people seem to be reading it more these days, perhaps Congress should, too?

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