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SCENE AT THE SIGNING OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES

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1. Washington, George 2. Franklin, Benjamin 3. Madison, James 4. Hamilton, Alexander 5. Morris, Gouverneur 6. Morris, Robert 7. Wilson, James 8. Pinckney, Chas. Cotesworth 9. Pinckney, Chas. 10. Rutledge, John

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11. Butler, Pierce 12. Sherman, Roger. 13. Johnson, William Samvel. 14. McHenry, James 15. Read, George 16. Bassett, Richard 17. Spaight, Richard Dobbs 18. Blount, William 19. Williamson, Hugh 20. Jenifer, Daniel of St. Thomas

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21. King, Rufus 22. Gorham, Nathaniel 23. Dayton, Jonathan 24. Carroll, Daniel 25. Few, William 26. Boldwin, Abraham 27. Langdon, John 28. Gilman, Nicholas 29. Livingston, William 30. Paterson, William

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31. Mifflin, Thomas 32. Clymer, George 33. FitzSimons, Thomas 34. Ingersoll, Jared 35. Bedford, Gunning, fo. 36. Brearley, David 37. Dickinson, John 38. Blair, John 39. Broom, Jacob 40. Jackson, William (Secretary)

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discuss. Before doing so, however, let me pause for one observation which seems relevant in connection with the adoption of the Constitution and relevant to the happenings and duties of our own immediate time.

It is often said in recent years that the Constitution of the United States is not a sacred document. This is one of the assumptions constantly advanced by those who would change the Constitution as you would change a statute, bend it or twist it to every political breeze, or tear it up altogether. Of course, the Constitution, as it exists at any particular time, is not sacred as against the right and power of the people to amend it in the manner provided in the Constitution. The people may make over our government in any manner which seems to the people proper and wise. The means and the method are always at hand to adjust the powers of government to the tasks of government, not the powers which individuals or groups may insist the government should have, but the powers which all the people may determine the government shall have. And therein lies the whole difference between democracy and autocracy.

But until the people speak, until the people make known their desire, the Constitution is sacredly binding upon the people, upon officials, upon the Congress, the Executive, and the courts. In the language of the father of our country: "The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government-But the Constitution which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.”

Certainly, it must be so regarded by all who take a solemn oath to maintain and support it. It is sacred against the right or power of Congress or the Executive or the courts, or of all combined, to change or modify it through unwarranted, forced or strained constructions. Such changes are usurpations—none the less vicious because not openly avowed. If that were not true, constitutional government would be a mere trap with which to ensnare the peoples' support to accomplish their own enslavement.

Will those who contend that the Constitution is not sacred go so far as to say that the right of the people to determine the form of government under which they live is not sacred, that liberty is not sacred, that to be free from arbitrary arrests and the torture chamber is not sacred, that the right to live your faith and worship your God unmolested is not sacred? If they will not go so far as to say these things are not sacred, then let us remember that upon the exclusive power of the people to make their Constitution and to keep it as they

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make it, or amend it, as they choose, all these sacred things depend. When the people lose control of their constitution, they have already lost control of their government! It is an old story that when the people lose power, they lose liberty.

I may have a wrong conception of the word sacred. But I feel that an instrument of government, purchased by years of sacrifice and bloodshed upon the field, by weeks and months of arduous effort in counsel, which has held together people of all climes, races, and faiths in ordered liberty, which gives freedom to all who come within its jurisdiction, which makes the people sovereign and public officials their agents, is sacred by every rule which measures the worth of human progress or human freedom.

Mr. Chairman, it has often been stated, there was not much new or original in the Constitution of the United States. Its simplicity and its strength and durability lie in the fact that the framers were content to be guided by experience and to place in our scheme of government no more than experience had revealed as expedient and wise. It may well beindeed, one might say, it must bethat, in dealing with new problems, experience will again call for such changes as may be deemed expedient and wise. Widespread poverty in the midst of wealth, the concentration of economic power, the unquenchable thirst of a progressive people for the better things of life, have brought, and will continue to bring, to the government matters for consideration. And the people, as I have already said, have the power, and I doubt not will have the intelligence and the patriotism to meet all such exigencies and to grant to the government whatever powers are necessary.

But some of the experiences embodied in our framework of government had been so bitter and searching, so unerring in the truths revealed, so profoundly a part of the scheme of freedom, that they can never be changed without a surrender of the whole scheme of freedom itself. In the way of illustration, no one will contend that the right of the people to amend the Constitution should ever be taken away from the people or that through subterfuge they should be cheated of that right. And it seems equally beyond question that, if the people are to write the fundamental law, incorporating therein the pledges and guarantees which keep them free, and to prescribe the limits beyond which their agents and servants may not go, in interfering with or disregarding its terms, then there must somewhere be set up an umpire, impartial and final, to judge between the people and their agents and servants. No one familiar with the history of the Constitutional Convention or familiar with the

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thought of the day outside of the convention, will doubt that the framers, without division, recognized the necessity of creating such an umpire. And they will have no doubt that this idea met with the approval of the people of those times. Looking upon the pure and impartial administration of justice as the highest achievement of government and the surest bond of national union, they, with practically one accord, sought to set up a tribunal of justice free and apart from the storms of politics.

In this vital matter the framers were working again by the light of experience, for the idea of an independent tribunal of justice did not originate, in the first instance, in the councils of state or among those of great influence. It had originated with the humble and persecuted, with those who had suffered from political opinions or religious beliefs, and the sanctity of whose homes and the security of whose families had often been violated by those in power. The demand for tribunals, uninfluenced by, and unafraid of, political power, came from the people of Old England, was carried across the sea by those seeking security in a New World, was kept alive throughout the colonies, gathered up and incorporated by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, and finally, came to majestic completeness in the Constitution. No institution of ours has its roots deeper down in the elemental passions of a free people.

We enjoy in this country what a distinguished churchman has called “A Modern Miracle.” Men of all races, English, German, Italian, Norwegian, Irish, Greek, and all, with their varied and conflicting views and ways of thinking and living, representing all faiths, all creeds, and all religions, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Scientist, and those with no belief, all living in peace and security under one flag. It seems no less than a miracle when we recall rivers running red with human blood shed in racial and religious warfare, and when we now look abroad and see great nations tortured with racial and religious controversies, torn with internecine strife, visiting on each other cruelties which find few parallels in all the history of persecutions. Let us pause in our service this evening and make inquiry why it is we are so richly blessed.

We shall find it is not because Divine Providence has sought us out for special favor, for He "hath made of one blood all nations of men,” not because we are altogether different from other peoples in our likes and dislikes, our prejudices and our passions. We shall find that our peculiarly good fortune and our rare blessings are due primarily to the fact that we have had a Constitution guaranteeing liberty and protection under the law to all, and a Supreme Court

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643 which for one hundred fifty years has never, when appealed to, permitted that guarantee to be disregarded.

There have been times when political forces have sought to disregard some or all of the guarantees of the Constitution, freedom of speech, of the press, freedom from arbitrary arrests, freedom of priest or minister to administer to his people. And there have been times when political forces have sought to close the courts. But when national feeling has run high-as national feeling at times inevitably will—when great leaders have swayed with the storm-as great leaders sometimes do—the Supreme tribunal created by the fathers has remembered the Constitution and thrown its shield about all who sought its protection. When in the haste or zeal of some great effort those in control of the political forces of the nation have looked upon the Bill of Rights as an obstacle to their aims, the Court has proved to be as James Madison expressed the hope and belief it would prove, “an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the Legislature or the Executive," and has furthermore resisted "every encroachment upon the rights” which the people had stipulated in the Constitution should never be disregarded or surrendered. This "modern miracle" of ours is constitutional government with its checks and balances, its laws and courts, in practical operation. It is democracy working.

The marvel of those men who stood about the birth of this nation is not that they met the exigencies of the immediate hourother leaders in other times had done that, only to see their work perish with them but that they could and did outline principles of government applicable to all times. They saw in their clear vision a a great republic deriving all power from the people and designed solely to serve the people. They were familiar with the tragic efforts of the people in the past to set up such a government and they could see, or thought they could see, some of the vicissitudes of the future, and they built not for their own day, but for all time. They understood well that occasions would arise when the people themselves, as well as their leaders, might grow restless under those constitutional restraints upon which all the rights of the people rest, and they sought to guard against that day. May I quote here the words of Thomas Jefferson: “An elective despotism was not the government we fought for, but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government be so divided and balanced among several bodies, .. that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.”

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