Treating the Constitution Like Silly Putty
Articles Blog

Treating the Constitution Like Silly Putty

September 10, 2019


A lot of people treat the constitution like silly putty. If you’ve ever played with silly putty, you know you can stick it on newsprint and it will pick up a mirror image of the page. A lot of people think they can do the same thing with the constitution. They stick on to whatever political opinion they like and imagine the constitution just picks it up. Then they pull on the edges to create new and interesting forms that were never approved by the people who gave it legal force. This is pretty much what people are doing when they claim the constitution is living and breathing and was meant to just change with the times. Of course, this is nonsense. The constitution is a legal document with a fixed meaning. The definitions of the words that make up the constitution were not intended to change with the shifting sands of public or judicial opinions. And it’s not a vague document at all. Like any legal document, it holds the same meaning today as it was understood to mean by the people who gave it legal force. That is, the ratifiers, the people of the several States. As James Madison said in a letter to Henry Lee, “What a metamorphosis would be produced in the code of law if all its ancient phraseology were to be taken in its modern sense.” In other words, the legal meaning of the Constitution doesn’t change, even when definitions of its words change over time.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. The powers-that-be have completely changed the meaning of the word regulate. At the time our Constitution was written, regulate meant making something regular or operating properly. A pendulum clock had a regulator. The pendulum. It allowed the clock to keep proper time. Now regulate means government taxation and interference and in many cases prohibition. A well regulated militia means something completely different than it meant in the second amendment. The federal government regulating interstate commerce no longer means promoting commerce. It's now used anytime the federal government wants to do anything to infringe upon our rights. This is why we must insist upon the original intent when interpreting our Constitution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *