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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Founders' Constitution

At the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Eugene W. Hickok and Gary L. McDowell write:

[T]he essence of the Founders' Constitution — indeed, the essence of the very idea of American constitutionalism — is that government may not do whatever it pleases and that the limits on the government's powers must be respected. At the same time it must also be appreciated that within those sometimes strict limits the government is expected to be allowed to carry out its true constitutional responsibilities with that "energy" that lies at the heart of any real government. It must be allowed to fulfill the original constitutional intentions of the people.

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That greatest of Richmonders, Chief Justice John Marshall, understood this as well — if not better — than anyone.

At the heart of the idea that the essence of the Constitution is the creation of a limited but energetic government is the belief that the very idea of a written constitution of enumerated powers is nothing less than what Marshall called "the greatest improvement on political institutions." The reason, as the great chief justice said, is that the Constitution is the creature of the people's will and "lives only by their will."

If the new Republican majority aspires to be a party of true constitutionalists, it could do no better than to take its bearings from the Founders.

For their Constitution, as James Madison put it, was intended to provide a "republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government," and it is precisely the return to a proper understanding of the Founders' Constitution as the source of a limited but energetic republican government that can best accomplish the original objects of our justly celebrated founding.