Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Founders Chic?

The Atlantic Monthly currently perched on a newstand near you features "Founders Chic," an article by H.W. Brand warning against what he considers our current infatuation with the Founders. I confess to having not yet plunked down $4.95 for the privilege of reading the piece (and it’s not available at Atlantic Online); but the online edition does provide an interview with Brand from August 7th that’s worth a look.

I’m no history scholar, but I think some of what Brand offers is misguided. For example, his answer to the question "What do you think should be the mechanism for rewriting the Constitution?" includes:

If we were really in the spirit of the Founders, people would just get together and call an utterly extra-legal convention, because that’s what the convention of 1787 was. . . . For people to say, for example, that we can’t do anything about gun control because the Second Amendment prevents it--well, let’s just rewrite the Second Amendment. If the First Amendment says we can’t control political spending, let’s rewrite the First Amendment.

Earlier, Brand argued that "if we want to be in the spirit of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin and all, we ought to have a constitutional convention about every twenty or thirty years. Times change." To my knowledge, and others like Dr. Craig can correct me, but that’s not Madison’s spirit, that’s his poltergeist.

As if unaware of what such frequent conventions would mean, Brand concludes the interview with an appreciation of the

validity of the argument that says don’t tamper lightly with the Constitution. And in fact the arithmetic of amending the Constitution strongly favors the status quo. I think that if constitutions could be rewritten willy-nilly then there would be an important and critical loss of stability. . . . So I wouldn’t be in favor of allowing a sixty percent majority, for example, to amend the Constitution. Let’s keep it the way it is. Let’s make it hard.

Have a convention every twenty years, rewrite the first two amendments and keep the Constitution largely the same for stability’s sake. Ahh, I see. Oh, wait, no I don’t.

I’d be interested in other impressions of Brand’s points though.

Discussions - 2 Comments

What struck me about the Brands piece was that he seems to suggest that our excessive veneration of the Founders leads us to avoid amending the Constitution. Nonsense! Gun control advocates don’t call for altering (or removing) the second amendment not because they feel too much reverence for Madison and the like, but because they know that such a change would never pass. So instead they support measures that simply ignore the Constitution. And how exactly does that reflect any great esteem for the Founders?

"Earlier, Brand argued that ’if we want to be in the spirit of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin and all, we ought to have a constitutional convention about every twenty or thirty years’."

And if you "want to be in the spirit of" Thomas Jefferson, Patrict Henry, and Sam Adams, "we ought to have" revolution "about every twenty or thirty years", as well. Of course, to accomplish this we must also have the 2nd Amendment.

Just out of curiosity, what did Mr. Brand find so inadequate with:

"Article. V.

"The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary,
shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of
the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a
Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid
to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by
the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions
in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may
be proposed by the Congress;..."

Of course, our Constitution is being "amended" every day by the "rogue" Federal judges who are just a clueless as Mr. Brand.

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