When I tell people that I’m an author, blogger, and podcaster, the very next question usually is: What do you write about? When I tell them I’m writing a book about studying the Constitution, the looks range from mildly interested to baffled and confused. Many people have asked why I would study and write about that, and while I’ve given pretty fair answers in the past, those reactions have led me to ask myself: Why do I do this? That led me to a better answer to the question, and I wanted to share that answer with you.
Like the founders of this nation, my reasoning can be explained by looking at the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
This nation was founded on the then self-evident truths that all men were created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. I’m sure we’re all familiar with this phrase, but most people I’ve encountered do not seem to apply it in their everyday lives. What does it mean for all of us to be created equal? If these rights are truly unalienable, what does that mean for society today?
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
Our governments, all of them (as in state, local, and federal), are created with one primary purpose: To secure our rights. Not to protect us or provide for us, but to protect our rights. As I look at our nation today and as I anticipate the nation my daughter will live in, I do not see a nation where all people are treated equal, or one where our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are protected. Rather I see states and a nation more and more bent on telling us when and how we can live, what we can and cannot do with our lives and property, and where the only happiness one can pursue is one authorized by government. In short, I see that our states and our nation have descended into the same tyrannies our Founding Fathers fought to protect us from. Even worse, I see a people not only accepting this tyranny, but asking for more.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Our founders believed that when any government continually failed in their duty to protect our rights, it is our right to alter or abolish it. Please don’t get me wrong though: I do not want to abolish our government. Instead, I want to return it to its Constitutional role of protecting the rights of the people. Which means I do not want to see a revolution on the battlefield, but one at the ballot box.
Those who gave us this nation also gave the people the means to protect our rights from infringement by the government. Therefore, why I read and study the Constitution is so I am prepared to assert and defend my rights. I teach others to study the Constitution so they can assert and defend their rights as well, but to do so based on laws rather than intimidation. My goal is not simply to educate myself, but to help create a better, freer nation for my daughter to live in.
So the next time someone asks me why I study the Constitution, I will tell them I do it so my daughter and others of her generation will have the chance to live free. As John Jay said:
Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country, and teach the rising generation to be free. By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated, and be the better prepared to defend and assert them.
John Jay, First Chief Justice of the supreme Court of the United States