Those brave souls who followed the U.S. Senate impeachment hearings subjected themselves to hours of pontification from the right and left and received a liberal dose of each side’s declaration of what the founding fathers thought, had in mind, intended or desired when writing the U.S. Constitution.
I readily accept the Senate trial is long on theater and short on actual execution of the people’s work. Obviously to fill that theatrical aspect, senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle have this almost intrinsic need to translate over 245 years, the intentions of people who lived nothing like ourselves.
If we look just superficially at the authors of the Constitution we find simple, but intelligent, politicians. And they were politicians. Let’s keep that in the forefront. Over the centuries they’ve been glamorized by writing such a document, forming the Republic and organizing a process to make most people (land owners) equal in the eyes of the federal law (blacks, Indians and women didn’t count yet).
These noble gentlemen had no concept, nor inkling of what society would be today. At the time the Constitution was voted upon, only white men could hold office. Today, women and minorities hold offices from city government to the U.S. Congress and Senate.
Westward expansion had not yet begun at the writing. It would be another 75 years before the federal government promised free land throughout the Midwest, hurling white families at Indian tribes. The government’s pawns fought and died in huge numbers, finally forcing indigenous people on to small reservations peppering the country.
The Constitution authors rightly recognized the press should figure prominently in the Republic. The press watches the politicians and strives to educate the voting population. However, they had no concept of radio, then television, then the internet. How could they know that 200 years later Philadelphia would have several great newspapers, many radio and television stations and then fall into the abyss of social media, where voters aren’t educated but entertained.
The horse and buggy Constitution authors could not conceive of steam, the train, then the automobile that came along 125 years later. An airplane, much less a jet airplane that can carry hundreds of people around the world in less than 24 hours? That would be mind-blowing to “the framers.”
At the risk of starting a Second Amendment argument, everyone must agree the authors of the Constitution could not see the Spencer repeating rifle or Colt’s 1836 revolver. Leap forward to the Gattling gun and the M1 Garand carbine, machine guns and now the M16 and AR-15. No one knows their collective minds when they penned the Second Amendment but it surely did not include such war time weapons. They lived in a time of the single shot musket.
The comparison of life in 1774 to life even pre-atomic age are many and mind-boggling. It is impossible to compare our current situation to that of the white men who wrote the constitution.
There are a few important things they did understand at the time, that still hold true today. The authors knew men are imperfect and all of us have questionable moral compasses on some scale. The most moral among us struggle inwardly when faced with difficult choices. Anyone would allow, just for a second, the question, “Can I keep it?” if he found a bag of money at a bus stop.
They also knew power corrupts. Power affects all elected officials. At the federal level the three branches of government are in place so that two can keep the third in check. We’re not sure “the framers” anticipated the many corrupt individuals at all levels of federal government, each using their own broken moral compass trying first to further their political agenda while putting an associate on the straight and narrow.
I also doubt they anticipated the many incompetent people who today populate the U.S. Senate and Congress. The authors were betting on a free press writing pertinent news and serving it to a reading public. Today the general public wants to watch videos on their favorite social media and refuses to read facts and educate themselves about the world around them.
The authors were mostly educated men, with life experience. They could speak, using confidence and facts, versus today’s rhetoric and salesmanship. I fear many holding congressional seats today could not read and understand some of the speeches given 200 years ago.
Democrat Sen. Adam Schiff referred to “the framers” 28 times in the first 15 minutes of his two-and-a-half hour diatribe that opened the impeachment hearings. He clearly thinks he knows the framers’ thoughts and intentions. He does not. Neither does Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. Each man hopes the architects of our Constitution would agree with what each side is doing.
I’d like to say the authors of our Constitution disagree with both sides of the impeachment proceedings. But I cannot make that statement. I know they had no concept of what is happening today.
But I can’t read minds, no one can, especially the minds of men who have been dead for over 200 years and lived in a time we only read about lightly in history books. (You know, sheets of paper with words on them, bound together?)