Cape Gazette
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Citing Jefferson on Constitution

By Mary Beth Crafts | Oct 24, 2013

This country is defined as a democratic republic with neither word referring to either political party. It is neither a pure democracy nor a pure republic, but rather a combination of both.

The first amendment to the Constitution provides for free speech. That means we are free to express our opinions without fear of being deprived of our right to vote because someone with differing views considers us to be "clueless." Subsequent amendments have provided that every citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote. They cannot be denied that right for any reason other than a felony conviction. Differing opinions even if they are "clueless" do not rise to the level of a felony!

This country is vastly different than it was in 1789. It cannot operate in today's world in the same fashion it did then. By that, I do not mean that we should change our form of government, but 13 states with a population of four million people (1790 census) is a far cry from 50 states, the District of Columbia and various territories with a population of over 300 million.

The following words are Thomas Jefferson's: "Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right. It may be said, that the succeeding generation exercising, in fact, the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to nineteen years only.

In the first place, this objection admits the right, in proposing an equivalent. But the power of repeal is not an equivalent. It might be, indeed, if every form of government were so perfectly contrived, that the will of the majority could always be obtained, fairly and without impediment. But this is true of no form.

The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils, bribery corrupts them, personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents; and other impediments arise, so as to prove to every practical man, that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789.

Even he recognized that the Constitution would need to change, and not in a regressive but rather a progressive fashion. Again, I am not using the term progressive in a political sense, but as it is first defined in Merriam Webster as "happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step."

Mary Beth Crafts
Lewes

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