There’s a quote by Alexis de Tocqueville I wanted to share with everyone. It’s perhaps more relevant today than it ever was. The more I teach and give talks on the Constitution, the more I realize just how much the Constitution is an idea that derives its power from the belief that we have in it. If we the citizenry do not know the limitations that the Constitution places on our government, that government has no limitations at all.
Why would government want to stay within limitations, limit their own power, when those that elect them don’t care to know, much less enforce those limitations?
The Constitution, our system of government, presumes such depth of knowledge amongst the governed, its frightening to think how shaky a balance we stand upon.
De Tocqueville, the French author and historian who penned the now famous book, Democracy in America, said this of the American Constitution and government:
“BUT WHEN ONE EXAMINES THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, THE BEST OF ALL KNOWN FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONS, IT IS FRIGHTENING TO SEE HOW MUCH DIVERSE KNOWLEDGE AND DISCERNMENT IT ASSUMES ON THE PART OF THE GOVERNED. THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNION RESTS ALMOST ENTIRELY ON LEGAL FICTIONS. THE UNION IS AN IDEAL NOTION WHICH EXISTS, SO TO SAY, ONLY IN MEN’S MINDS AND WHOSE EXTENT AND LIMITS CAN ONLY BE DISCERNED BY THE UNDERSTANDING”ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE
I couldn’t have said it any better. It’s indeed frightening to see just how much knowledge and discernment the Constitution of this country assumes on the part of the governed. Liberty requires work.
This Constitution has no power without a citizenry that both knows and respects the it … and then knows and discerns whether government’s behavior is abiding by this Constitution.
Why have a Constitution that limits government’s power when the people who are protected from government by that Constitution neither know nor care to hold that government accountable to it?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Constitution is an idea… and its power is fully dependent on us believing in it.
As Tocqueville says: ” THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNION RESTS ALMOST ENTIRELY ON LEGAL FICTIONS.”
The Constitution is a piece paper… a legal fiction.
… given power by those of us that believe in its power.
Friends, government has no incentive to fight for those limitations to have power.
“THE UNION IS AN IDEAL NOTION WHICH EXISTS, SO TO SAY, ONLY IN MEN’S MINDS AND WHOSE EXTENT AND LIMITS CAN ONLY BE DISCERNED BY THE UNDERSTANDING”
This union, this Constitution, is an ideal notion, and it truly does only exist in men’s minds. I hope that you my readers, and every other group I speak to, really gets this.
Destroy the belief in and knowledge of the Constitution, destroy the Constitution.
There’s no need to physically destroy the limits on government, to destroy the Constitution via arbitrary government mandate … all that’s necessary to destroy the Constitution is to destroy it in our minds. Raise an entire generation of Americans who don’t know the Constitution, have no respect for the Constitution and don’t know why they should, and the Constitution is extinguished.
The Constitution’s extent and limits only exist in men’s minds and are only effective if the citizenry knows those limits, respects those and can discern if government is following those limits. If government knows that the citizenry doesn’t know their limits, why abide by those limits?
Does everyone get this? It should shake you to the core.
The limitations of our Constitution don’t matter if this nation does not know or care what those limitations are…or why they matter.
We’re at tyranny’s doorstep friend, because how many of us can say with confidence that we or this citizenry possess the understanding needed to make these Constitutional limitations a reality?
It is a legal fiction.
Only given power by us.
And it’s terribly frightening to see just how much diverse knowledge and discernment it presumes on the part of the governed.
What a solemn and precious responsibility we, the governed, hold in our grasp.
May we not let it slip through our fingers to be lost forever.
The Liberty Belle