Constitution Critics Show Ignorance
By James T. Williams, Jr.
UNDER the leadership of the Representative in Congress from the Twentieth New York Congressional District — Mr. Marcantonio — of New York City, who calls himself a Republican, a demand has been issued for the call of a constitutional convention to make over the Constitution of the United States.
Image of LaGuardia and Marcantonio from Spartacus Educational
Mr. Marcantonio, who rattles around in the Congressional shoes formerly worn by the present Mayor of New York City, Mr. LaGuardia, is serving his first term in Congress. Uniting with him in this demand are Congressmen Schneider and Amlie of Wisconsin and Lundeen of Minnesota. The first two call themselves Progressives and the third is a member of the Farmer-Labor party.
These national legislators evidently think very poorly, both of the Constitution and of the Supreme Court of the United States. They attack the latter in this contemptuous language:
“In no uncertain terms it (the Supreme Court) has served notice on Congress that the Constitution is not a flexible document to be interpreted liberally and in the light of present-day conditions, but rather an instrument that must be interpreted with relation to the time, conditions, and ox-cart economy of the days when it was written.”
This is not a quotation from any decision of the Supreme Court. It cannot be found in any such decision. It is merely an assertion by a group of politicians who are evidently more concerned with misleading the public than they are with telling the truth.
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THE Supreme Court took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States as written. It did not take an oath to support the Constitution only in so far as its provisions are approved by Mr. Marcantonio and other political sappers who are dissatisfied with the Constitution as written and seek to supplant it with a new one.
“The Great Tribunal” in a decision handed down in 1905 said in the words of Mr. Justice Brewer:
“The Constitution is a written instrument. As such its meaning does not alter. That which is meant when adopted it means now. Being a grant of power to a government, its language is general, and as changes come in social and political life it embraces in its grasp all new conditions which are within the scope of the powers in terms conferred . . . It must also be remembered that the framers of the Constitutions were not mere visionaries, toying with speculations or theories but practical men, dealing with the facts of political life as they understood them, putting into form the government they were creating, and prescribing in language clear and intelligible the powers that government was to take.”
This is the Constitution which the Supreme Court, under its solemn oath, undertakes to interpret.
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ILL-INFORMED politicians sometimes make the mistake of saying that the only difference between the American and British constitutions is that the former is a written document and the latter an unwritten body of law. Their error in this regard, is clearly set forth by Mr. Charles Warren in a book on “Congress, the Constitution and the Supreme Court,” [google preview only] which all political sappers in Congress seeking to undermine the Government of the Constitution would do well to read.
Mr. Warren declares that the real difference between the American and British constitutions is that “the American Constitution (the Constitution of the United States and the Constitutions of the several States) are unalterable and unamendable by a majority of the Legislature itself.”
Mr. Marcantonio is within his rights when he advocates the calling of a Constitutional convention to make over the Constitution of the United States. But when he attacks the Supreme Court, or its refusal to make over the Constitution, he either advertises his abysmal ignorance of the American System of Government or his complete contempt for that system.
Making over the Constitution in not the duty of the Supreme Court. That is the exclusive privilege of the American people. And Mr. Marcantonio insults their intelligence if he pretends otherwise.
Rochester Evening Journal (Rochester, New York) Jun 18, 1935