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I write from Villanova University where I gave a Constitution Day talk this afternoon. When the video goes up, I will post it here. In the meantime, I direct your attention to this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer, which published an op-ed I wrote as a teaser. Here is how it began:
Sept. 17 marks Constitution Day. In Philadlephia, 228 years ago, George Washington and his fellow delegates subscribed their names to a copy of the proposed constitution. They hoped the states would call conventions to consider the document and that at least nine would ratify it and summon into existence what they described in the preamble as “a more perfect Union,” which would “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty” to themselves and their “Posterity.”
As this language suggests, nearly all of those who had attended the federal convention had high hopes. None, however, were certain that the proposed constitution would suffice. They were, they knew, engaged in an experiment.
It was an open question whether self government and good government were compatible. Republican government — as instanced in classical Greece, in ancient Rome, and in 17th-century England — did not have an unblemished record. It was their contention — and hope — that the instrument of government under consideration constituted a decisive improvement on all prior political models.
I am of the opinion that the jury is still out regarding the experiment initiated by the Framers in 1787.