Two Hundred Years Ago Today
There is a tendency in the bicentennial year-and especially this week-to idealize the events of 1787. We tend to presume that the men who wrote the Constitution were near-perfect demigods, who crafted a brilliant and internally consistent document from their own insights. We assume that the Constitution represents the consensus of opinion of those fifty-five men, and even of the population at large in 1787. I want to debunk those myths. I want to talk instead about the problems, about the mistakes, and about the very different visions of government that were represented at the Constitutional Convention. In short, I want to suggest that the drafters of the Constitution stumbled and bungled their way in to the document whose origins we are celebrating here today. That debunking process leaves a problem, however. Once we've debunked the myth and exposed lack of any solid foundation for the Constitution, we are left with a puzzling question. Why has it worked for two hundred years? If the framers were as inept and as wrongheaded as I am going to suggest that they were, how did they create such an effective and long lasting document? That is the main question that I want to answer today, and it is one of the most important questions about the Constitution, because it is what links us to our history.