Newt Gingrich | Five myths about the Founding Fathers

Newt Gingrich, Washington Post:

5. They thought the Constitution would “evolve.”

“The provisions of the Constitution are not mathematical formulas,” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said. “.?.?. They are organic, living institutions.” His words prefigured Woodrow Wilson’s “living” constitutionalism — the notion that the Constitution evolves over time. Even Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing last month’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, claimed that the founders “entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”

But while there’s no question the framers believed that the Constitution could be changed — through the amendment process they carefully outlined — an evolving document wasn’t what they had in mind. “Our peculiar security,” Jefferson wrote in 1803, “is in possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.” Washington affirmed that the Constitution was unchanging “till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people.”

“If in the opinion of the people,” he added, “the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”


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