Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"In the same sense that the sciences
of arithmetic and geometry, that mind, that life itself, have reality;
the Constitution has real existence, and does not the less exist
in reality, because it both is, and exists as, an idea."
"The Idea of the Constitution"
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Coleridge's principal work of political theory is The
Constitution of the Church and State, According to the Idea of
Each (1830). In this brief extract Coleridge points out that
a constitution is an idea, a concept, rather than merely a document.
Ask any of our politicians what is meant by the Constitution,
and it is ten to one that he will give a false explanation; as for
example, that it is the body of our laws, or that it is the Bill of
Rights; or perhaps, if he have read Thomas Payne, he may say that we
do not yet possess one, and yet not an hour may have elapsed, since
we heard the same individual denouncing, and possible with good reason,
this or that code of laws, the excise and revenue laws, or those for
including pheasants, or those for excluding Roman Catholics, as altogether
unconstitutional; and such and such acts of Parliament as gross outrages
on the Constitution. Mr. Peel, who is rather remarkable for groundless
and unlucky concessions, owned that the late Act broke in on the Constitution
of 1688: whilst in 1689 a very imposing minority of the then House
of Lords, with a decisive majority in the Lower House of Convocation,
denounced this very Constitution of 1688, as breaking in on the English
But a Constitution is an idea arising
out of the idea of a State; and because our whole history from Alfred
onwards demonstrates the continued influence of such an idea, or
ultimate aim, on the minds of our forefathers, in their characters
and functions as public men, alike in what they resisted and in what
they claimed; in the institutions and foms of polity, which they
established, and with regard to those against which they more or
less successfully contended; and because the result has been a progressive,
though not always direct or equable, advance in the gradual realisation
of the idea; and because it is actually, though even because it is
an idea not adequately, represented in a correspondent scheme of
means really existing; we speak, and have a right to speak, of the
idea itself, as actually existing, that is, as a principle existing
in the only way in which a principle can exist, -- in the minds and
consciences of the persons whose duties it prescribes, and whose
rights it determines. In the same sense that the sciences of arithmetic
and geometry, that mind, that life itself, have reality; the Constitution
has real existence, and does not the less exist in reality, because
it both is, and exists as, an idea.
"Loyalty... is a realization that America
was born of revolt, flourished in dissent, became great through
Henry Steele Commanger
"Freedom, Loyalty, and Dissent"
The American Experiment in Democracy:
200+ Years and Still Going Strong...
"Ture democracy means the ability to remove
a government without violence, to punish political failure or misjudgment
by votes alone... The art of politics is the minimization of unhappiness,
or of unavoidable suffering... The process of avoiding suffering
is greatly assisted by the existence of free institutions. The
greater their number, variety and intrinsic strength, and the greater
their individual independence, the more effective the democracy
which harbours them will be. All such institutions should be treated
like fortresses: that is, soundly constructed and continually manned...
"Free institutions will only survive when there is the rule
of law. This is an absolute on which there can be no compromise:
the subjection of everyone and everything to the final arbitration
of the law is more fundamental to human freedom and happiness
than democracy itself... Once the law is humbled, all else
that is valuable in a civilized society will vanish, usually
with terrifying speed. On the other hand, provided the rule
of law is maintained intact, the evil forces in society, however
powerful, will be brought to book in the end - as witness the
downfall of the Nixon administration."
"The Enemies of Society"
Signed in 1789, the United States of America has
the oldest existing constitution still in use in the world
(with Norway coming in second place with their constitution
dating back to 1814). To my knowledge, the United States is
the only country to base its society not on a shared past or
culture but on an idea, that of political freedom: life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
"We the People of the United
States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice,
insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote
the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves
and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for
the United States of America."
From the Preamble of the United States of America
Ratified by the 13 colonies in 1789
LIVE FREE OR DIE!
Motto of the State of New Hampshire
it had flaws and is still not perfect, our Constitution
has allowed a system of government to flourish with freedom
and opportunity unequaled anywhere in the world before
or since. The United States has no need for walls or laws
to keep people from moving elsewhere; and for over 200
years countless millions of people have come here from
all parts of the globe, creating a society of pluralism
and diversity resting on liberty.
"For being an American and enjoying
the fruits of our Constitution - the liberty and opportunity
that our system of self-government makes possible - is a
lifelong adventure. It is a prviledge that carries responsibilities
we must all fulfill."
Warren E. Burger
"The Constitutions: Foundation of Our Freedom"