Today Americans celebrate the 227th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution by the delegates of the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. Only three delegates who stayed to the end declined to sign the document and two of those, George Mason and Elbridge Gerry, later supported it with the promise that a bill of rights would be added.
Convention President, George Washington, was greatly impressed with the result. Most Americans and foreigners have revered it ever since. In 1878, for example, the once and future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, William Gladstone, wrote that the U.S. Constitution was “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man,” and that was after our Civil War had shown the need to amend it to prohibit slavery and ensure greater protections for individual liberty and equal treatment under law.
In an op-ed published on Townhall.com today, I describe the sustained attacks on the structure of our Constitution by progressive theorists who were openly hostile to the separation of, and limitations on, the national government’s powers that prevented a concentration of authority in a centralized, national bureaucracy. I also mention the textualist/originalist revival in recent decades that is helping to restore the Constitution’s original protections.
At the Pacific Legal Foundation, we litigate every day to restore the liberty guaranteed in the real Constitution. That was even harder when PLF was founded in 1973, when there were fewer courtroom allies for limited government and a dominant legal culture that was dismissive of the Constitution’s original public meaning. But the intellectual climate has improved, due in part to PLF’s work and a growing awareness among citizens concerning the need to fight for our liberties and challenge the natural tendency of government elites to take and abuse more power than we have granted them.
And for interested citizens and scholars today, I am also happy to relate that Heritage Foundation has just published a revised version of The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, which has over 200 essays on each clause or amendment of the Constitution by 114 leading originalist scholars. The more citizens educate themselves about their liberties the harder it will be for government to take them away.