Preserving Our Constitution

Alton Democrat (Alton, Iowa) Sep 29, 1949

Constitution Day is  Saturday, Sept. 17th, and although this article was published 90 years ago, it should be published again as a reminder, and so here it is:

CONSTITUTION DAY

In the reverence of Americans, September 17 should rank with February 22 and July 4, as a day of significance in American history. It was on this day in the year 1787 that out from the prayers and dreams, sacrifices and blood of our forefathers there issued forth a nation with the form of a republic and the soul of a democracy, pure and strong in purpose and predestined to be mighty in achievement. It was the embodiment of a Christian ideal born and nurtured in the hearts of righteous men and patriots. It was sent forth on its career with a prayer: in one hand it carried an olive branch and in the other, the most wonderful instrument of government that ever emanated from the mind of man.

The constitution of the United States embraces the assembled wisdom of perhaps the best brains in the aggregate that the world has ever produced. Pure in its diction, charming in its simplicity, and strong in its concise yet comprehensive inclusion of every essential principle of the most enlightened human government, it represents our nation’s first and greatest contribution to the thought of the world. It will live forever among the immortal masterpieces of man. Even as the source of all individual failure may be found at the point of divergence in personal conduct from the principles set forth and enunciated in Holy Writ, so whatever the failures of our own government have been or will be may be traced to the subversion or contravention of some principle embodied in our constitution.

In this hour of universal confusion when the nations of the earth, driven from their accustomed orbits by a cyclone of war, are trying to readjust themselves to orderly and wise processes of government it is peculiarly appropriate that in our own country we pause on this birthday of our constitution to pay tribute to its makers and to rededicate ourselves to the increasingly difficult task of preserving it against its enemies. With brazen effrontery, the forces of disorder are daily practicing treacheries upon the flag that has protected them in the exercise of the liberties which they misconstrue as license. Constitutional democracy has been at least partially supplanted by a sort of mobocracy that boastfully defies the restraints of distasteful law. The average American has ceased to regard himself as seriously bound to respect a law that he does not like, and disregard of constituted authority struts forth at noonday.

The tendencies of our national thought and the current of national events seem to be away from the foundation principles, upon which this republic was established. We have grown callously accustomed to the frequently successful attempts to bend, break, or misinterpret the constitution to suit the caprices of an element of our own people or the foreign ideas of those who cannot or will not understand the genius of our institutions. Demagogues and near-statesmen mistake the clamor of a mob for the voice of the people, and in the name of liberty, progress, and democracy the warnings of history are ignored and offenses against our constitution multiply.

It seems to us, therefore, that this is an appropriate day on which to stop, look and listen, and to take warning of the things that are going on about us. It seems to us that this is the time to take stock of our nationalism and to surround our institutions with that loyalty as understood and applied by our forefathers, and to set ourselves resolutely against rising tides of un-American theories and practices. Perhaps it is through the schools primarily that we must look for the inculcation of those virtues which venerate the constitution and which alone can hold us in the path to which we were committed by the framers of that great document. Perhaps we have been lax in our duties as American citizens with respect to our public schools and the services they have been rendering. Perhaps we have allowed them to drift away from the moorings to which they must be attached if they are to serve as an effective instrument of Americanism in our national life. If we would make the schools what they can and should be as a force for preserving the foundations of the republic we must realize our responsibilities toward our educational affairs and discharge them conscientiously. That is the way, in fact, it is the indispensable way, to the preservation of that type of constitutional government which has distinguished the United States of American from every other nation and placed its liberties and blessings in a class by themselves.

Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Sep 17, 1921

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