The Constitution is not the Bible. The Constitution represents the handiwork of men. The Bible is believed to be knowledge revealed by God. The Constitution is rich in 18th century philosophical assumptions. The Bible has been tempered by the ages.
The Constitution launched a bold experiment in self-government. When the rest of the world was ruled by kings and dictators, the American revolutionaries chose to establish a republic. The success of such an experiment was far from certain.
The Founding Fathers viewed the document they had written as a pragmatic experiment in self-government. When Franklin was leaving constitutional hall, someone in the crowd outside the building called out to him, asking — What kind of government did you give us? Franklin replied — A republic if you can keep it.
The Founding Fathers’ pragmatic attitude is reflected in the provisions they made for amending the Constitution, two-thirds vote of both houses and ratification by three-fourths of the states. If they had believed they were writing divine script, they would not have left open the possibility for future changes.
When it was written, the Constitution represented the most progressive political thinking of its day. The Founding Fathers recognized that the pragmatic spirit of their work was more important in the long run than any particular words they may have penned. It is ironic that some would ignore the experimental spirit lying behind the Constitution, and instead focus their attention upon trying to chisel its words into stone.
The Constitution is a living, ongoing experi-ment in self-government. Each generation has the opportunity to modify the document to best address the problems of its time. We should not shy away from modifying the experiment. If the Founding Fathers were here today, they would settle for nothing less. The thing we should all reject is rigid and unproductive thinking.