The American Constitution And Liberty -- By: Jacob M. Lashly

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 087:346 (Apr 1930)
Article: The American Constitution And Liberty
Author: Jacob M. Lashly


The American Constitution And Liberty

Jacob M. Lashly

There has never been a period in the history of the United States when the Constitution was so little known or understood as at present, and, singularly, there has never been a time when more were claiming its protections and guaranties. It is not an uncommon experience to hear a man or a woman who has never read the Constitution demanding his or her Constitutional rights or dogmatically denouncing some political or economic policy of the Government upon the ground that it is unconstitutional.

In a certain spirit of self-analysis it may be thought permissible to examine into some of the modern conceptions of the American Constitution, and to review in a purely academic way the progressive changes in public sentiment which have compelled certain modifications in our fundamental law in order that it might be made to conform. There have been three notable methods by and through which basal changes in the original structure of the Government may be noticed, and it will be found that they have each kept pace with the other. All have been responsive to the compelling influences of popular demands for more and different qualities of liberty.

First. By direct action of the sovereign people, by way of amendments to the Constitution;

Second. By action of Congress, through legislative enactments, and

Third. By action of the Supreme Court, through its judicial decisions.

The limits of this discussion will permit of a treatment of but the first of these, and that only in general terms; the others must be reserved for another occasion.

It should be remembered that the original intention of the framers of the Constitution was that it should con-

stitute a bar against the encroachments of government upon the inalienable rights of the people. The document was not designed as a supplement to or in any wise a repository for legislation. While it was to be a background for law, its effects and objects were to be in one sense the very opposite of law. Rather was it a safeguard erected by the people against the law-making disposition of their political representatives whose propensities to legislate the God-given rights of free men away from minority or unpopular groups were quite well understood. This conception of the function of the Constitution is even more readily observable when it is recalled that the people seriously objected to its ratification unless and until the first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, should have been agreed upon. It was not sufficient to satisfy the doubtful and suspicious patriots that the ratificationi...

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