Thomas Jefferson believed that “no society can make a perpetual constitution” because “laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.”
Has the American Constitution kept pace with the times? How well does a document created in 1787 for a nation of 3 million with no political parties meet the needs of today’s sprawling, diverse, technologically advanced global power? In recent years, various commentators have raised many questions about the relevance and efficacy of major elements of our blueprint for governance, including the electoral college, lifetime tenure of Supreme Court justices, and hugely disproportionate influence of smaller states in the Senate, among others. Some of them argue that the amendment process prevents the sort of fundamental revisions they believe are necessary, and that we need a new constitutional convention.
Let’s review these criticisms and proposals, and see what we think. Should we continue to venerate the Constitution as the tie that, however imperfectly, binds this fractious nation together? Or is it time now to fulfill many of the framers’ own expectations that their patchwork of 18th-century understandings and compromises would need to be significantly revised in future ages?
Tuesdays, October 2 – 30, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Norman Williams Public Library
Wednesdays, October 3 – 31, 10:00 a.m. – noon
Nan Bourne’s home on River St.
Ron Miller has taught numerous courses for the Learning Lab on American, Canadian and Vermont history as well as contemporary issues. He received a Ph.D. in American Studies from Boston University and previously taught at Goddard and Champlain colleges. He is the author or editor of nine books on educational history and philosophy, and another on Vermont independence. Ron is the coordinator for the Learning Lab and also serves on the board of Norman Williams Public Library.