Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Latest From American Creation

In the spirit of practicing what I preach I decided to bring the discussion that broke out in the comments section of Jon Rowe's excellent post on "Testing" the Christian Nation thesis to the main page. I am not sure where it originated, but a great discussion about the merits of original intent as a method of interpreting the Constitution came up. As I went to the section on the Constitutional Convention to read some old posts I came across one by Tom Van Dyke from September 6th on Madison, Jefferson, and their views on how to interpret the Constitution. The following quotes are reproduced from his post word for word:

“The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the States are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign affairs...”

“On every question of construction [of the Constitution] 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 intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”


"It is to be the assent and ratification of the several States, derived from the supreme authority in each State -- the authority of the people themselves. The act, therefore, establishing the Constitution will not be a national but a federal act."

"As a guide in expounding and applying the provisions of the Constitution, the debates and incidental decisions of the Convention can have no authoritative character. However desirable it be that they should be preserved as a gratification to the laudable curiosity felt by every people to trace the origin and progress of their political Institutions, & as a source perhaps of some lights on the Science of Govt. the legitimate meaning of the Instrument must be derived from the text itself; or if a key is to be sought elsewhere, it must be not in the opinions or intentions of the Body which planned & proposed the Constitution, but in the sense attached to it by the people in their respective State Conventions where it recd. all the authority which it possesses."


So here is my challenge to all the contributers, commenters, and "cultural warriors" alike:

History means nothing if it does not relate to our current lives and the issues of our day. It is about dead men and events that cannot be changed. The value of studying it is in realizing that the issues we debate today have been debated before. Sometimes it is the same product with a different brand name but nonetheless the same or very similar issue. With that said, how about some posts and comments about how the founders would have, and did, debate the very same issues that we moderns do today?

I think the Culture Wars debate that we see on Ed Brayton's blog should come over to here. But I think the modern tendency to spout off our modern opinions should be backed up with some historical facts that I see lacking in this national debate we call the "Culture Wars". That is the problem with the "New Media" of the "Information Age": Everyone has a strong opinion but few can back it up with facts. I think this is what Tom was trying to say in his most recent post.

No disrespect to Ed, who I consider a friend because he took some time to educate me on many of these issues when others wanted to mock me to suit their biased agenda, but I think the frame of discussion we have established on this blog is more proper, civil, and productive toward solving some of problems related to these issues because we do put it into a historical context thanks to another man I now consider a friend: Jon Rowe. If I am right then our discussions at American Creation need start reaching a wider audience. That could get messy but I think we can handle it.

So to start it off I challenge the crowd here, and at Dispatches(Jon can you email this to Ed), that says that "original intent" does not matter to take on Jefferson and Madison. Maybe Barton is right about more than most want to give him credit for? I think we need to talk about Federalism(like Madison and Jefferson did above) and the intent of possibly "most" Americans at that time when we ask if this was intended or purposed to be a Christian Nation. I would also argue that we eventually need to go further back than the Constitution and study where the ideas for the Declaration came from and if they were "Christian" or not?

These are the two topics in this discussion that most strict secularists seem to want to ignore. Most of the biased Historians that write on this topic certainly ignore it. The floor is open to argue with Jefferson and Madison for all who care to take them on; Lemon Test or not.

Fair warning to any in the "Dispatches" crowd that wants to step up to the plate:

I am setting you up. I would hope that you come up to bat with a better thesis than the "liars" motif.

Fair Warning to Barton:

I am setting you up. I think you may find that the original intent had nothing to with your modern political agenda. In fact, I am out to prove that it was much more libertarian in nature than you let on and is being undermined by your modern political agenda.

My Sincere thanks to Tom Van Dyke, Jon Rowe, and Ed Brayton:

My internet friends that have taught me more about this topic I am about to begin to pursue at a graduate level than anyone else. You guys changed my outlook on life more than you will ever know with our discussions.

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