The Strange Case of the Missing Constitution

Some acute scholar of future times, should there ever be such, will perhaps ponder over the very strange career of the United States Constitution—how it came, without changing a word, to be understood almost universally to mean things it did not mean and to be used for purposes other than, and sometimes the opposite of, what it intended.

Even its name was changed in the process.  It refers to itself as “this Constitution for the United States of America” (emphasis mine)—that is, an instrument for the “common defense” and “general welfare” of those states in their joint capacity.  But now we have a Constitution of rather than a Constitution for.  This change of name is not unrelated to its alteration from a covenant among the governed to a grant of divine right to the rulers.

Consider this: Pundits and judges present us with the Federalist as the supreme resource for interpreting our Constitution.  But that set of speculative essays has only very marginal weight as an authority.  It is a partisan polemic by three men belonging to the defeated centralist party in the Philadelphia Convention.  At least one of those men, Hamilton, acted in bad faith, reassuring the public that the new Constitution involved no threat of centralized power and, after it was adopted, conspiring tirelessly to twist it so as to achieve...

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