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Constitution Day

Yesterday was Constitution Day, the 227th anniversary of the Federal Convention's formal proposal of a new Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation.

I like to stress that the document was only a proposal on that day, not the supreme law of the land.  It only became a contract between the people and their government, and hence the supreme law, when ratified by the people.

Personally, I would prefer that Constitution Day be the date of ratification, but that's a bit hard to pin down.  By its terms, the Constitution formed a union of nine states and was the supreme law of that union on the day the ninth state ratified. That would be New Hampshire on June 21, 1788.  Everyone knew, though, that the new union had no chance without the big dogs, Virginia on June 25 and New York on July 26.  It's a bit spooky how close those votes were.
North Carolina grudgingly came along the next year, and Rhode Island even more grudgingly the year after.

The reason I stress ratification is that the contract between the people and their government does not mean what the drafters intended and discussed in their secret deliberations.  It means what the people with constitution-making authority -- the people of the nation as a whole -- understood it to mean when they ratified it.

The Constitution was far from perfect.  It is not perfect today.  But the only legitimate authority for changing it is the people, amending it through the democratic process.  That principle is more important by far than the outcome on particular issues.

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