Libation #211
An Instrument of Restraint 
Thomas Jefferson

"Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction."       
                                                  - Thomas Jefferson


From a letter by Jefferson written to W. Nicholas, 1803
Jefferson was warning against this practice of twisting the meaning of the Constitution according to personal bias. In early America, the word "construction" was used as we would use "interpretation." The Constitution was written as an instrument of restraint for government, yet by "interpretation," the meaning of the Constitution can be essentially blanked out and made to mean anything one wishes.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? As Solomon said, "That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB)  By "construction," self-serving politicians have been avoiding the constraints of the Constitution ever since it was adopted. 

In another letter, Jefferson gave advice on how to interpret the Constitution: "On every question of construction, let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." *

Original intent is the rule, and the original intent of the Constitution was to restrain government. Don't buy the idea that the Constitution is an outdated document. The spirit of the Constitution is as timeless as man's desire to cast off the restraints of law. This is why we must know and understand our history.

* Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823, The Complete Jefferson, p. 322.

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