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Thomas Jefferson believed the constitution should be rewritten every 19 years...

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cynatnite Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:13 PM
Original message
Poll question: Thomas Jefferson believed the constitution should be rewritten every 19 years...
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Thomas Jefferson believed that a countrys constitution should be rewritten every 19 years. Instead, the U.S. Constitution, which Jefferson did not help to write (he was in Paris serving as U.S. minister to France when the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia), has prevailed since 1789.

Jefferson thought the dead should not rule the living, thus constitutions should expire frequently, but the fact is that the U.S. Constitution quickly became enshrined by the public and is the oldest constitution in the world, said Zachary Elkins, a professor of political science at Illinois.

http://www.news.uiuc.edu/news/07/0212constitution.html

Do you agree?

Sorry, polls are turned off at Level 3.

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gateley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:16 PM
Response to Original message
1. Sounds good in theory, but in actuality, I think it could be disastrous. nt
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Greyhound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:38 PM
Response to Reply #1
10. It has been, look at the SCOTUS interpretations in the 1830s, and the outright frauds
from the late 19th, early 20th, centuries.

We are in this position today, in no small part, because of our failure to update it to reflect changing realities. It was made very difficult to change and as a result we have (arguably?) lost the primacy of the citizen over the state, which was the spirit of the formation of the country.

Fear of change has caused us to cling to what we know is wrong. "Better the Devil you know" is a lie.



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Rabrrrrrr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:17 PM
Response to Original message
2. I do think there is some truth of goodness in the idea of rewriting every generation or so.
Edited on Sun Sep-28-08 05:18 PM by Rabrrrrrr
because times and technology change, and thus the issues facing people change.

However, there is also a danger of doing so - depending on who is in charge at any particular 19 year interval, the rewriting could be quite disastrous; imagine if the year of rewriting was 2002. We'd be in a hell of a worse pickle than we are now, and there might not even be a DU - or if there were, it would just be on the internal network at whatever prison compound we'd all be in.

As it is, what we have is a system not so much of rewriting, but of amending, and I think that's enough.

The truth is, the forefathers hammered out a pretty fucking amazing document that does serve us pretty well still.
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Greyhound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:45 PM
Response to Reply #2
11. One of the early revised Constitutions would likely have moved us toward a
more parliamentary/representative system than the easily controlled binary one we have now. There were several parties around with significant memberships and their views, just like today, were not accounted for.


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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:17 PM
Response to Original message
3. I think I prefer the language, "updated" not rewritten. n/t
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lligrd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:17 PM
Response to Original message
4. Jefferson Probably Thought We Would Continue Evolving
but he has been proven wrong. It is doubtful we will ever have that wise of a group of people together again.
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rockymountaindem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:17 PM
Response to Original message
5. I think that's not such a great idea
Given the extreme partisanship in this country over the past many years, it would probably take 20 whole years just to agree on a new constitution. The battles would go on forever and would probably, in the past at least, have prompted more than just the one internal conflict we had. Maybe during Jefferson's time people were more reasonable and enlightened, but these days I don't think it would be practical.

Moreover, having one bedrock document has provided for a modicum of stability and legal security. If the constitution changed regularly, people would start hedging their bets on how best to run things now to work under constitutions that were yet to be written. You'd probably hear this a lot: "Well, what we're trying to do now isn't exactly legal, but we think that when they write the new constitution in two years we can make the case for legalization and retroactive immunity". If you think letting that happen once was bad, if we were to rewrite the constitution in every generation, many people would abide by that principle in all their dealings.
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Bill McBlueState Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:18 PM
Response to Original message
6. Does anyone know where he got 19, in particular?
I agree with the principle that these issues should be revisited from time to time, but I wouldn't be too specific about the length of time.
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:55 PM
Response to Reply #6
13. Length of a Generation
Edited on Sun Sep-28-08 05:59 PM by RoyGBiv
I don't have a citation for this handy, so you can take it for what it's worth.

The length of a generation is not static, and there is not a precise measurement for how much time defines a generation. In general you take an arbitrary point in time defining something significant, e.g. the enactment of the Constitution, and figure how much time it takes for those shaped by that event to be "replaced" by their offspring.

The length of a generation has increased as lifespan has increased and as the average age of "first birth" increases. In Jefferson's time, a generation was around 20 years. Now, it's closer to 30.

Jefferson thought that each generation should define for itself how it should be governed.

More to the point, Jefferson was often taken by idealistic flights of fancy, of which this idea is a part. At the same time he thought each generation should write its own Constitution, he thought these generations would be guided by an advancement of enlightenment principles. He was wrong.

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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 06:08 PM
Response to Reply #6
15. Maybe he thought it would take a year to debate and formulate changes, so
that a new and improved Constitution could be ratified every twenty years.
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Mika Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:22 PM
Response to Original message
7. You don't change horses in the middle of a race.
:eyes:


I Ride an Old Paint
I ride an old Paint, I lead an old Dan.
I'm off to Montan' for to throw the hoolihan.
They feed in the coulees, they water in the draw;
Their tails are all matted, their backs are all raw.

Chorus

Ride around, little dogies, ride a round them slow.
For the finery and snuffy are a rarin' to go

Verse

Old Bill Jones had two daughters and a song,
One went to Denver and the other went wrong.
His wife, she died in a pool room fight,
And he sings this song from morning till night:

Chorus

Oh, when I die, take my saddle from the wall,
Put it on my pony and lead him from the stall.
Tie my bones to his back, turn our faces to the west,
And we'll ride the prairies we love the best.

Chorus



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melody Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:22 PM
Response to Original message
8. Jefferson was all over the map on that point over his life n/t
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Myrina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:26 PM
Response to Original message
9. No because we would constantly be see-sawing between ideologies ...
... depending on who was in the WH, SCOTUS etc ... :(

We would really never know 'what we stand for' as a people.
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Poseidan Donating Member (630 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:52 PM
Response to Original message
12. I don't agree, necessarily...
Re-drafting Constitutions could mean losing lessons learned through history. Instead of re-drafting new Constitutions, there could be an accompanying document of history, detailing the events leading to each part of the Constitution. How else can we properly determine intent? Words are of equal importance to intent. The meaning of words can change... ideas can be distorted. A second document, of legal history, tied directly to the Constitution, would likely do more good than perpetually re-drafting Constitution's, which may result in re-learning forgotten lessons, at great cost.

At the period of 19 years, lessons should not be lost easily, and should be incorporated into each new Constitution along with lessons learned during the 19 year-period. The reality would likely be, most of the existing Constitution would simply carry over to the new. If there was something like the amendment system, requiring 2/3rds of congressional support to stop or alter carry-over, a regular re-drafting could function better than our current, dead-Constitution system.
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galileoreloaded Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 05:57 PM
Response to Original message
14. Maybe follow the one we got first??????................n/t
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GreenPartyVoter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 06:33 PM
Response to Original message
16. Rewritten? No, Reviewed, yes. But I think our process of constantly reviewing and revising has
Edited on Sun Sep-28-08 06:34 PM by GreenPartyVoter
served us fairly well and in essence has met the goal Mr. Jefferson had, which was to make sure the dead did not rule the living. (A wise choice and one I imagine might have been influenced by his views on religion, which is another place where the dead rule the living.)


Of course, **'s policies have rather nullified the whole point of the Constitution anyway.
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gravity Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 06:36 PM
Response to Original message
17. Our founding fathers are much wiser than many of the politicians today
While the constitution could be updated some, it is much better than risking having a dictatorship without checks and balances every 19 years
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SoCalDem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 06:48 PM
Response to Original message
18. Gererational "audits" are absolutely necessary and prudent
and "lifetime" appointments of the judiciary are idiotic..

three current SCOTUS members were appointed by Ford & Reagan....and countless federal judges who are their legacies..

This is nuts..
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Fearless Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 06:58 PM
Response to Original message
19. Remember that this was every 19 years when people lived to 35 or so...
Just saying. Things are different. And I wouldn't want every regime change to usher in a new nation.
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