A couple weeks ago was Constitution Day, the day we celebrate the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. Many Americans have lost any sense of the meaning and importance of the Constitution. It seems that for most people, the word “unconstitutional” is simply shorthand for “anything in politics I don’t like.” To the extent people give any further thought to the Constitution, they usually focus on some particular section of the Bill of Rights that is important to them. But, the miracle of the Constitution comes from the great ideas that lie behind it and finds its expression in the first seven articles of the Constitution.
The Constitution comes from a period known as the Enlightenment. Enlightenment philosophers such as Adam Smith, John Locke, and the Baron de Montesquieu championed the ideas of separation of powers, individual liberty, religious toleration, and freedom of conscience. The geniuses of our founding expressed these ideas in the structure of the United States government.
For example, America is blessed with a system of separation of powers. Power is diffused across three separate branches of government, and primacy is given to Congress, the branch that is most representative of the people. America also has a system of limited government. Under the constitution, the government is limited in its powers, having only those powers granted by the Constitution. This limitation of powers inherently recognizes the primacy of the individual over the state and the liberty of the individual.
These constitutional ideas are what make America the country we love today. While it is natural for citizens to love their country just because it is their country, we live in a country that is worthy of our respect and admiration. One of the reasons (but not the only reason) is because our country has the greatest system of government ever devised. As you reflect on the ratification of the Constitution, don’t just think about the particular “rights” that you have today, but the very idea of limited government protecting all of our freedoms.
David Hansma is an associate at Seyburn Kahn and a Board Member in charge of Governement Relations, with Patriot Week! David specializes in complex commercial and business litigation, including breach of contract, shareholder and partnership disputes, fraud, non-compete litigation, business torts, class actions, and real estate and banking litigation.