AMMENDMENTS AND CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE
>Do you know if Jefferson spoke to >the amendment process? I am looking for anything that explains how the >founding fathers viewed the use of amendments. A current dictionary defines >the word as, " a change made by correction, addition, or deletion." Do you >know how dictionaries of that time defined the word? I don't know how dictionaries of that time defined the term "amendment," but I suspect that it was close to our own understanding of the term today. Jefferson did indeed have much to say about the amendment process. I have one whole chapter of the Jefferson Quotes site devoted to "Amending the Constitution." It is located at: http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff1000.htm >Can the amendment >process be used to change the very spirit of the Constitution? Could we >choose Communism by the amendment process? These are very interesting questions, and the somewhat frightening answer apparently is, YES! The very essence of our representative democracy is that there is an ultimate sovereignty in the people. That is why it is so important in a Free Society to have an enlightened and educated citizenry. As Thomas Paine put it: "In republics, such as those established in America, the sovreign power, or the power over which there is no control and which controls all others, remains where nature placed it--in the people; for the people of America are the fountain of power." The buck of ultimate sovereignty has to stop somewhere, and that is where it stops. With respect to constitutions and amendments, this is where that authority stops -- in the people. And they, in their sovereign capacity can depute representatives with the power to make the Constitution anything they (the people) want. There are all kinds of mechanisms in place to prevent this from happening in any casual fashion or over any trivial issues, but that is the way it is, in the final analysis. Jefferson calls the people, "the safest depository of our rights." Just assume -- and this, as we know, is pure fantasy -- but just assume that communism had turned out to be just the reverse of what it was. The people of a nation under communism, we assume, had greater freedom, greater happiness, greater prosperity, and their rights were better protected, than the people had under representative democracies as we know them. Suppose that Russia was obviously leaving us far behind in every respect. Would the people of the United States have the right to change their government to one like theirs, and take advantage of this wonderful new way of governing? You bet they could, and simply through the process of amending their Constitution. Of course, we know that is pure fantasy. It could never happen. But as a purely hypothetical supposition, Yes it could happen. What power could stop them? Indeed, it would not be a Free Society if the people in it were not free to make it whatever they genuinely wanted it to be. >It seems to me that it has been >abused. I have been loosing some arguments on this and would like to be >better informed. The reality of things is, Yes, the people have that power. But since the people are themselves human beings, they are just as capable as humans are everywhere, of making mistakes. Prohibition has been considered one of those mistakes. And the correction of that mistake was also within the power of the people. That is the way things work in a free society. The REAL abuses of power usually come from a disregard of the Constitution. Persons elected to power ignore the Constitution, or twist its meaning out of shape. Slavery was "constitutional" at one time, but that was because the people of this nation, for various reasons, wanted it so. A free society is always subject to the will of its people, be that for good or for ill.
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