Congressman Bob Schaffer column for The Coloradoan | Sunday, 17 September 2017
Celebrate Natural Rights On Constitution Day
The U.S. Constitution is a figment of its original self. Today, on its 230th birthday, Americans can engage in legitimate debate about whether the Constitution has improved with age.
The intentions of America’s original framers and ratifiers have been systematically betrayed, mainly by the nation’s legal system which has succeeded in stripping powers from the people and empowering government with nearly complete economic and regulatory control of us all.
In 1787, America’s founders were intent on limiting the authority of government by enshrining the rightful powers of ordinary individuals. They had just succeeded in a bloody revolt against the British crown defeating the most lethal military in the history of human civilization.
Victorious Americans detested the idea of a king. They saw no justice in being led by monarchs, dictators, or despots of any sort. They believed and understood that natural rights are not endowed by kings, governments, or even constitutions, but by “the god of nature” for all mankind. This truth endeared early Americans to the concept of government “by the consent of the governed.”
Following their glorious revolution, the new states worked together organized under a Confederation Congress; but the need for a nimbler, yet limited, government – and for a constitution to contain it – was broadly understood. So, for five months over the summer of 1787, 55 delegates from 12 states met in Philadelphia to draft the Constitution.
They finished on September 17th, the date we commemorate today, and sent the Constitution to the Confederation Congress which voted to then submit the Constitution to the states for ratification. The first state to ratify the Constitution was Delaware which did so unanimously on December 7, 1787.
Fundamentally, the purpose of the Constitution was to empower individuals by protecting their natural, unalienable rights. The Framers indeed accomplished this by limiting the powers of the national government, reserving as much authority as possible to the states and to the people. The Constitution made clear that the government had no powers other than the few enumerated in the Constitution itself.
Those who opposed the Constitution then, did so mainly because they feared the relatively concise language of the document may not have clarified powerfully enough the limits of federal authority. To assuage some of these “anti-Federalists,” promises were tendered to subsequently add a “Bill of Rights” which would seek to make even clearer the limited authority of the new federal government.
Indeed, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution had one significant theme in common: Each emphasized what the federal government cannot do in order to honor some of the rights citizens were empowered, by God, to enjoy.
Today, some American students are taught their rights are established by the Constitution itself. This is an incorrect understanding of what an unalienable right really is. Those who believe this right or that is actually created by the Constitution are in error, and it is imperative they learn directly about the essence of true rights and the basis of personal liberty.
Our Constitution merely acknowledges pre-existing, and pre-ordained natural rights inherent to all human beings at the moment of their creation. This is what Americans meant, and still mean, when we first agreed in writing on July 4, 1776 that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. These incontrovertible facts are strenuously embrace by Americans as self-evident truths.
Those who reject these fundamental ideas stand at odds with the bedrock principles upon which the U.S. republic is established. Some who reject these fundamental principles are local, state, and federal judges. Some are elected politicians.
Regrettably, opponents of the U.S. Constitution rule today at all levels of government. These American adversaries invariably present themselves as pleasant and sincere. Thusly, they are sometimes appointed and elected by voters who are uninformed, reckless, or who sometimes actually intend to undermine the Constitution.
This is why it is so important for Americans today, especially young people, to learn about the true history of the U.S. Constitution including the philosophy of the Founding Fathers, Constitutional framers and ratifiers, the colonial period, the Revolutionary War; and the objective, unrevised history of the country.
Today, Constitution Day 2017, is a perfect commemoration upon which to reflect and recommit ourselves to learning more about the original ideals of the U.S. Constitution, to the holy cause of American liberty, and to consent to being governed only by representatives who are devoted to the same.
Bob is the Chairman of the Leadership Program of the Rockies. He formerly served as the Chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education, and was also a Member of Congress and Colorado State Senator. He currently serves as the Principal at Liberty Common High School in Fort Collins.