Why the history of the Constitution matters

Let’s be very clear on something: The US Constitution, as every textbook (at any level) makes very clear, was not written with the primary intention of limiting the central government. 

Sure, the Founding Fathers (peace be upon them) were motivated by a liberal suspicion towards strong central government.

But the Founding Fathers had already created a government with a weak central government. It was called the Articles of Confederation. It was the failure of that government (which lasted until 1789) that prompted the Founding Fathers to create a new constitution that gave more powers to the central government and took powers away from the states. (I’m also pretty sure the Civil War definitely answered this issue.)

In fact, one of the things that prompted the creation of a new, stronger central government was Shay’s Rebellion. My old office (at Dickinson College) was on the very corner where General George Washington assembled the militia that marched off to put down Shay’s Rebellion (there’s a plaque and everything).

It’s also useful to remember that the original Constitution included a number of things we would probably find distasteful today. And not even in the Bill of Rights (which, remember, only came later—years after the Constitution was adopted). For example, slavery was legal and slaves (African-Americans) only counted as 3/5 of a person. And women weren’t allowed to vote. Stuff like that.

I love the US Constitution. It’s not perfect (no such document is). But it’s not a sacred text. I do, however, wish more people got sworn in with it (like Rep. Kyrsten Sinema did). 

25 notes


  1. sleepingmiddleclass reblogged this from pol102 and added:
    Nick: You make an interesting point, and there’s one thing I’d like to add to it: the very fact that the Constitution...
  2. brant049 reblogged this from pol102
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  7. peakskeletonism said: It wasn’t even written as a set of laws!
  8. pol102 posted this

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