Our More Perfect Union: From Eighteenth-Century Principles to Twentieth-Century Practice

Our More Perfect Union: From Eighteenth-Century Principles to Twentieth-Century Practice

Our More Perfect Union: From Eighteenth-Century Principles to Twentieth-Century Practice

Our More Perfect Union: From Eighteenth-Century Principles to Twentieth-Century Practice

Excerpt

We are in the midst of a period of revolutionary change. Since the Bomb fell on Hiroshima it has been evident to all persons of a reflective disposition that the world as a whole was badly organized, and that even in the best-organized parts of the world there was need to reëxamine the established processes of government with a view to reappraising their value under the strenuous conditions of modern times. Decisions of the greatest political importance, depending upon sound judgment in matters of unprecedented technical complexity, are made by statesmen who doubtless possess superior political skill but are handicapped by inferior technological understanding. The question inevitably arises, how best such decisions may be made in a democratic republic. For instance, should the President or the Congress decide whether and when to make a hydrogen bomb? Furthermore, in the light of what considerations and upon what evidence should such decisions be made? Finally, to what extent, if at all, should the people at large be consulted in the process of deciding?

In the United States, political power is exercised in pursuance of a plan originally formed in the eighteenth century. The plan was set forth in a carefully prepared written constitution. In fact, the people of the United States have possessed two written constitutions. The first, framed by the Continental Congress and called the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was in effect only eight years. It was never repealed, but, having been found unsatisfactory, was quietly ignored and quickly forgotten. The second, framed by the Federal Convention of 1787, proved to be more durable. It is now the oldest written constitution in the world.

Longevity may be an excellent quality in a political constitution. It may help greatly in solving the first problem of government, which is to enable the men at the head of the government to control the governed. In the course of time there develops a habit of obedience to constituted authority upon which men in public office can rely to procure the appearance of consent on the part of the governed to the system of government. When to the intrinsic strength of the constitution is added the force of political inertia, moreover, the men in power have . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.