Weekend

Weekend Words: Constitution

“We have built no national temples but the Capitol; we consult no common oracle but the Constitution.”

James Gillray, “Long Live the Constitution, One and In(di)visible” (1800), etching, 270 x 170 mm, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (image via Web Gallery of Art)

Two-hundred-thirty years ago today, the United States Constitution began its final path toward ratification, as 60 proof sheets of a draft text composed by the Committee of Detail were delivered to the Old State House of Pennsylvania (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia.

How much longer will it last?

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.

—John Adams

The Constitution gives every American the inalienable right to make a damn fool of himself.

—John Ciardi

The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.

—Henry Kissinger

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.

—Kurt Vonnegut

I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many or the prejudices of the few.

—Benjamin Disraeli

We have built no national temples but the Capitol; we consult no common oracle but the Constitution.

—Rufus Choate

The constitution does not provide for first and second class citizens.

—Wendell Wilkie, An American Programme

Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war in which the folly or the wickedness of government may engage it?

—Daniel Webster

The principles of a free constitution are irrecoverably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.

—Edward Gibbon

That things possess a constitution in themselves quite apart from interpretation and subjectivity is a quite idle hypothesis: it presupposes that interpreting and being-subjective are not essential, that a thing freed from all relationships would still be a thing.

––Friedrich Nietzsche

A Constitution should be short and obscure.

—Napoleon Bonaparte

I think there are only three things America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music, and baseball.

—Gerald Early

Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.

—Learned Hand

My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.

—Gerald R. Ford, on becoming President, August 9, 1974

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