July 4th is a good time to look back at the founding fathers–and especially their attitude toward the Constitution. Many scholars and judges could learn something–especially those who, like Scalia, are fixated on “original intent.” What the founders absolutely did not want was to be embalmed, or to have their prescriptions taken as sacred script. That fundamentalism is not only wrong-headed, it’s as stupid and dangerous as the religious fundamentalism in Evangelicalism, Judaism and Islam. And, surprisingly for most, Anthony Scalia’s “original intent” is the same approach to literature that all fundamentalists take.
But here’s what Thomas Jefferson, one of the godfather’s of the US Constitution had to say.
Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I know that age well: I belonged to it and labored with it. It deserved well of its country…. But I know also, that laws and constitutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.