Constitutional Longevity. Was Religiosity...

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Sat Jun 13 20:00:38 PDT 1998

On Sat, 13 Jun 1998, Carrol Cox wrote:

> It struck me many years ago that the claim as to the longevity of the U.S.
> Constitution was simply silly. The Constitution as originally written was
> in actuality discarded in 1861 and as it now exists was a joint product of
> the War of the Slave-Drivers Rebellion, the new amendments (*particularly
> the 14th amendment, as interpreted to apply to corporations), and the
> defeat of Reconstruction.

Obviously the Reconstruction amendments and their subsequent interpretation are very important--at OSU Law, as at many law schools, they teach a whole class on the 14th Amendment. But to say the original constitution was discarded in 1981 is just wrong. The 14A (+ the 13th and the 15th) is very important for individual rights, but it does almost nothing with respect to a graet deal of the Constitution, mainly the structural parts.: the idea of a limited government of enumerated powers, the three branches, the implied power of judicial review, etc. Obviosuly these are interpreted differently than in 1789 or 1867. But they are not that dissimilar.

The best dramatization I know of that new
> constitution is that racist movie, *The Birth of a Nation*. That
> constitution was challenged but not fundamentally changed by the Civil
> Rights movement, and the Carter-Reagan-Bush-Clinton administration has
> devoted itself centrally to reaffirming that Post-Reconstruction
> Constitution.

This is just ridiculous. There is terrible racism and it was worse in 1916 when BoAN was filmed. But to suppose that Brown v. Board of Ed and the civil rights movement, much less the union movement and the antiwar movement and the New Deal, etc. did no more than scratch the United States of Lyncherdom, as Mencken once called it, is a caricature.

> The United States as it exists now is little over a century old. The first
> U.S. nation barely outlasted the FSU. It lasted less than half as long as
> the ancient Athenian Democracy.

There's a significant difference as to the FSU, even if once were to grant, which I do not, the premise, This is that the main institutions continued on. Lincoln was the 16th, not the first, president, unlike Yeltsin.


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