In praise of our supreme law
Today, millions of Americans will commemorate the adoption of the foundational legal document of our nation, the U.S. Constitution.
For millions more, perhaps even most Americans, Constitution Day will pass relatively unnoticed. That is a lamentable but inevitable byproduct of living in a free society.
The founders would have understood.
The Constitution they drafted remains the single most effective and enduring framework for self-governance in human history.
From its preamble (“We the People of the United States ...”) through the Bill of Rights (ratified four years later), the U.S. Constitution provides a blueprint for orderly, limited government that maximizes individual liberty and preserves the principle that government authority derives from the consent of the governed.
That principle, arising out of the Declaration of Independence and its assertion that all people are born free and endowed with inalienable rights not subject to limit or revocation by a monarch, has served us well.
The Constitution, as with all products of human formulation, is not perfect. It failed to forthrightly address the incompatibility of slavery with its own fundamental truth about human equality. It denied women the right to vote.
Yet the genius of its creation is evident in the process of amendment incorporated in the original document and immediately used to adopt the Bill of Rights. Over more than two centuries — including through the crucible of the bloodiest conflict in our history, the Civil War — the Constitution has proven to be both resilient and adaptable.
Even today, in an era in which we often seem to be defined by our differences, it is important to remember our shared allegiance to its essential propositions.
As an elected official, I swore an oath to defend and protect the Constitution. I take seriously its unequivocal declaration of the powers granted to Congress, the president and the courts. And the limits it sets on that authority.
The framers understood the concentration of power in a single branch of government — especially the executive — invites tyranny and the destruction of the rights they were determined to protect.
I believe those principles are shared by an overwhelming majority of Americans today, whether they observe Constitution Day or not. And that’s something to celebrate.
Congresswoman Candice Miller, R-Shelby Township, represents Michigan’s 10th District.