It is a belief of the Latter-day Saints that the Constitution of the United States is divinely inspired. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord declared:
. . . I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.(1)
It is also a Latter-day Saint belief, declared by Joseph Smith and reaffirmed by subsequent prophets, that the time would come when the Constitution of the United States would be all but destroyed. An expression used is that it would "hang as by a single thread".(2)
These predictions continue to the effect that the Elders of Israel will be instrumental in saving the Constitution, if it is saved at all.(3) The term "Elders of Israel," as used in [p. 2] this context, apparently refers to the Mormon people rather than to a specific priesthood group.(4)
If the Latter-day Saints are to help save the Constitution, it is important that they understand it. It is not sufficient to declare that they believe it, without being familiar with its significant provisions and the principles on which it is based.
Since it is a belief of the Latter-day Saints that the Constitution was given through inspiration, it is especially appropriate to examine the constitutional system intended by the Framers. In doing so, particular effort should be made to understand the basic concepts and principles the Framers accepted, and to know which political concepts they considered to be unsound and rejected.
Before discussing the intent of the Framers, it seems appropriate to comment briefly on a point of view, most often expressed in educational circles, that it is impossible to ascertain just what the Framers did believe because there was no substantial unanimity among them. This lack of unanimity argument sounds particularly incongruous when it is repeated by those who believe the Framers to have been inspired, since it would seem that men who are inspired would also be united.
Actually, much of the confusion concerning the alleged lack of unanimity of intent arises out of a failure to distinguish between thoughts expressed in the process of developing the constitutional system and acceptance of the system agreed upon.
For example, Latter-day Saints believe that to obtain inspiration one does not simply ask and then sit back and wait for an answer. Instead, the procedure is to struggle [p. 3] and experiment with different ideas in a prayerful attitude, and then the inspiration comes in the form of guidance in knowing which ideas to reject and which to retain.(5) The different points of view presented by the Framers in designing the constitutional system were part of their struggling for fundamental principles from different directions and with particular concern for different problems. However, this groping from different points of view should not be confused with lack of unanimity of intent with respect to the final product.
The above concept, that the various points of view of the Framers in the Constitutional Convention were a part of the process of obtaining inspiration on the ultimate design, on which they were substantially united, is confirmed by the following comment made by the late J. Reuben Clark, Jr., a noted lawyer and an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
But I see in their divers views, their different concepts, even the promotion of their different local interests, not . . . confusion . . . but a searching, almost meticulous study and examination of the fundamental principles involved, and the final adoption of the wisest and best of allI see the winnowing of the wheat, the blowing of the chaff.(6)
That there actually is an ascertainable composite intent of the Framers is evidenced by the following statement by Professor Edward S. Corwin:
The tradition concerning the original establishment of the Constitution was still fresh, and . . . the intentions of the framers enjoyed a renewed vitality. . . . the theories which Marshall urged . . . were, in fact, frequently verifiable as theories of the framers of the Constitution.(7) [p. 4]
Another suggestion made by some for the purpose of undermining confidence in the Framers has been to imply that they did not have sufficient education or experience to design a system of government adequate for today's complex world. The caliber and preparation of the Framers was well summarized by J. Reuben Clark in these words:
What a group of men of surpassing abilities, attainments, experience, and achievements! There has not been another such group of men in all the one hundred seventy years of our history, no group that even challenged the supremacy of this group.(8)
Neither [Moses nor Brigham Young] . . . was more clearly trained for his work than these Framers were trained for theirs rich in intellectual endowment and ripened in experience.(9)
As to the Framers' knowledge of the political experiences of other governments, President Clark commented:
The Framers were deeply read in the facts of history; they were learned in the forms and practices and systems of the governments of the world, past and present; they were, in matters political, equally at home in Rome, in Athens, in Paris, and in London; they had a long, varied, and intense experience in the work of governing their various Colonies.(10)
As to all matters under consideration by the Convention, the history of the world was combed for applicable experiences and precedents.(11)
With respect to the qualifications of the Framers, Daniel Webster, who was himself a noted defender of the Constitution, declared:
Truly . . . these founders and fathers of the Constitution were great men. . . . All that reading and learning could do; all that talent and intelligence could do; and, what perhaps is still more, all that long experience in difficult and troubled [p. 5] times and a deep and intimate knowledge of the condition of the country could do,conspired to fit them for the great business of forming a general but limited government. . . . I love to linger around these original fountains, and to drink deep of their waters. I love to imbibe, in as full measure as I may, the spirit of those who laid the foundations of the government, and so wisely and skillfully balanced and adjusted its bearings and proportions.(12)
Impressive as are these and other testimonies of men concerning the caliber of the Framers, perhaps the most significant confirmation of their qualifications is found in the Doctrine and Covenants. There the Lord declares that the Framers were wise men whom He raised up for the very purpose of framing the Constitution.(13) In that volume it is further stated that the principles they incorporated into the Constitution should be established forever.(14) [p. 6] [p. 7]
|Previous page||Next Page|