B. Sources

A Radical Centrist Vision for the Future > Appendix > B. Sources

Here are some suggested readings for anyone with the interest in looking beneath the surface and into the depths of the minds of the Founding Fathers, the original “greatest generation,” never to be equaled. This is anything but an exhaustive list but these recommendations were useful for the writing of this paper.

The influence of Voltaire, Locke, and Montesquieu, especially, can be examined in a fairly short article found on the site: The Enlightenment, in a section entitled: Revolution. Another resource of value is philosopher David Hume’s paper “Of the Original Contract,” and other writings of his on governance.

The religious dimension of the Constitution is discussed to telling effect in an article by Molly Henneberg published on January 7, 2011, entitled “The Sacred Constitution.” Henneberg addressed the anti-religious sentiments common at the Washington Post in their insulting sneering at the reading of almost the entire Constitution when the 114th Congress was convened. Yet she made clear that many Americans regard the document –along with the Declaration of Independence– as divinely inspired. Indeed, for Mormons, both for Republicans like Mitt Romney and Democrats like Harry Reid, God himself inspired the writers.

For a modern religious – conservative view of the Constitution see an article in the New Republic for July 5, 2011, Ed Kilgore’s “The Hidden Meaning Behind Michele Bachmann’s ‘Constitutional Conservatism’”

Another perspective is found in an article by Norman Berdichevsky published in the New English Review for July 2007, “The Torah And The Constitution.” As Berdichevsky observed, reliance on the rule of law –as opposed to decrees by a monarch– is central to the Constitution, and, of course, the document requires literacy. This, in turn, spurred an American movement for universal education , even if that noble cause had more than this source. Moreover, the first citizens of the new nation recognized their indebtedness to the Old Testament / the Hebrew Bible and to the Jews, with no less than Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and later Van Buren, making this explicit. There was even second order influence when various Hebrew-language words and adages entered American English.

An article by John D. Nelson, “Masonry and the Constitution,” no date, also available on the Web, discusses the part played by Freemasons in bringing about the Constitution. While exact information is simply out of reach by this time, a minimum of 8 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons and at least 13 delegates to the Constitutional Convention (including Washington and Franklin) likewise were members. This background shows up in emphasis in the document on some typical Masonic values, especially “individual freedom, truth, tolerance and brotherhood.” There were also five Masons who opposed the Constitution –on the grounds that it needed other Masonic values, namely most of the principles eventually found in the Bill of Rights, which, of course, was an add-on after the fact. There is an extensive literature about the Constitution, articles and books that could fill a separate library just on this subject, but a few recommendations might be listed here:

Absolutely essential is Jack Rakove’s 1996 / 1997 opus, Original Meanings, Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution.

Others:

  • Craine Brinton, editor, The Portable Age of Reason Reader, a valuable collection of source documents, 1956.
  • Henry Steele Commanger, The Empire of Reason, 1978.
  • U.S. Constitution Online, 2011, “Constitutional Interpretation.”
  • Robert Cushman and Susan Koniah, Leading Constitutional Decisions, 1987.
  • Samuel Freedman, “Tea Party Rooted in Religious Fervor for Constitution,” published at the site, On Religion, November 5, 2010.
  • Maureen Harrison and Steve Gilbert, eds., Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court, 1991.
  • John Killian, editor, The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation / Congressional Research Service, 1987
  • Charles Krauthammer, ” Constitutionalism,” Washington Post, January 7, 2011.
  • Philip Kurland and Ralph Lerner, eds, The Founders’ Constitution, Vol. I, 1987.
  • Dan Lacy, The Meaning of the American Revolution, 1964.
  • John C. Miller, The Federalist Era, 1960.
  • Samuel Thorne and others, The Great Charter, Essays on the Magna Carta and the History of Our Liberty, 1965.
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010, “Constitutionalism.”
  • Garry Wills, Explaining America: The Federalist, 1981.

Unavailable to the writer at this time was a new book by Pauline Miller for 2010, Ratification – The People Debate the Constitution. However, it was possible to hear professor Miller give a most informative lecture about the research for her book, which was broadcast on C-Span television, enough to recognize that her study of the subject may well be the most important in many years.

There also are a number of publications just about the process of amending the Constitution. Special mention should be made of Richard Bernstein (with Jerome Agel) Amending America, 1993. Among other things the book discusses the many ideas which have been promoted for new Amendments in the past, everything from the era of the Constitution itself to the 1990s. Some of the ideas of previous would-be drafters of Amendments were made use of in the following set of recommendations, although not necessarily (or ever) intact, since my tendency is to borrow piecemeal, making modifications as I go along.

Other titles:

  • American Heritage (editors) feature article, May – June 1987, “Taking Another look at the Constitutional Blueprint,” series of comments by political leaders and authors about changes they would like to see made to the Constitution.
  • U.S. Constitution Online, 2011, “Some Proposed Constitutional Amendments.”
  • Cass Sunstein, The Second Bill of Rights, FDR’s Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need it More Than Ever, 2004.
  • Bernard Weisberger, “Amending America,”: American Heritage, May – June, 1995.

Wikipedia, current as of October 17, 2011, “List of proposed amendments to the United States Constitution.” This includes short form recommended amendments by members of Congress, and selected others. However, as the article notes, there have been over 11,000 suggested Amendments over the years.

Many of the Amendments which appear in the following pages are revisions (some drastic) to individual Amendment ideas first proposed in an unpublished paper of mine of ca, 1997, describing 50 new amendments –one for each state.

There have been recent proposals of merit by several authors, such as Larry Sabato in his 2007 book, A More Perfect Constitution. While few of his suggestions were borrowed / adapted for this study, his call for a new constitutional convention is an idea that I agree with whole heartedly. Sabato suggested 23 Amendments to the Constitution.

Texas Governor Rick Perry is on record favoring seven new Amendments. Some of these will be found in the current study, although not in Perry’s form,. nor from Perry as a source since these ideas were on my agenda for some time. Still, he will see several that are very similar to his recommendations. This is not an endorsement of Perry’s politics since I disagree with his overall political philosophy, it simply is an acknowledgement that various of his ideas are very worthwhile.

In some cases a source for an Amendment is noted in the text for individual Amendments, mostly from Rich Vail’s website, someone who has spent a great deal of time thinking through the problems which are at the root of his suggestions. More generally this is a good time to express sincere thanks to everyone at Radical Centrism.org, especially Ernie Prabhakar, our illustrious founder, who offered a number of useful ideas during times I discussed possible Amendments with the group, or discussed related concepts, at times in the past.

A Radical Centrist Vision for the Future > Appendix > C. On Libertarianism (next)

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