Our Constitutional Anchor: Our Priceless Constitution Secures Our God-Given Rights by Keeping America Safely Anchored within the Rule of Law. We Must Not Drift from Its Timeless Principles

By Benoit, Gary | The New American, April 14, 2008 | Go to article overview

Our Constitutional Anchor: Our Priceless Constitution Secures Our God-Given Rights by Keeping America Safely Anchored within the Rule of Law. We Must Not Drift from Its Timeless Principles


Benoit, Gary, The New American


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"All men are endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights"--among them "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." This self-evident truth, expressed so eloquently by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, is the underlying principle behind our country's great experiment in human liberty. "To secure these rights," Jefferson explained, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Our Declaration of Independence provided the philosophical basis for a new government based on the principle of securing God-given rights. It boldly proclaimed both the principle and our separation from Great Britain so that the principle could be put into practice. "Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it; and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles," Jefferson wrote in the Declaration.

When the American colonies made their historic break from the British crown, they became independent nations. During the War for Independence, the former colonies came together under the Articles of Confederation. Afterward, they formed a stronger national government under the Constitution. But the new government created by the Constitution, like the short-lived Confederation before it, was based on the principles in the Declaration.

More than two centuries have passed since the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted, and over that time we have gone from a horse-and-buggy era to the space shuttle. But changing times do not change timeless truths, no matter how great our technological achievements or how "enlightened" our times.

Because of the violation of those timeless truths, oppressive government has been the lot of most people in most places throughout history. Because our Founding Fathers fashioned a new government based on self-evident truths, our country quickly blossomed from a wilderness nation to become the envy of the Old World we had separated from. Because our government in more recent times has increasingly drifted from the founding principles, stretching and even breaking the moors that tie it to its constitutional anchor, American liberty and prosperity are now waning, though not (yet) irreparably so.

To get our great experiment in liberty back on track, we must bind our national government once again to its constitutional anchor. But that will not happen until there is more widespread understanding about constitutional principles, and that understanding then informs political action.

Understanding the Constitution

More constitutional principles are involved, of course, than the self-evident truths that "men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" and that the purpose of government is to secure those rights. How are rights secured? Put differently, what can be done to insure that government will be a protector of rights as opposed to a violator of rights? What did the Founding Fathers do and why did they do it?

The Founding Fathers understood that a minimal amount of government is necessary to secure rights, but they also recognized that government will exceed its proper authority and become tyrannical unless restrained. As James Madison, known to history as the Father of the U.S. Constitution, put it in The Federalist Papers (No. 51), the collection of essays arguing in favor of ratifying the Constitution: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls would be necessary." Man's nature is such that both external and internal controls are necessary. Madison continued: "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

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