Today, Sept. 17, is Constitution Day. On this date in 1787, delegates from each state signed the final Constitution, securing our rights and assuring the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. It is now the longest lasting, most imitated national constitution in the world.
The Constitution unified the country by providing a stable national government over the 13 separate states. The Constitution continues to unify us as Americans — and as conservatives. As Americans, the continued success and viability of our country depends on our fidelity to, and the faithful exposition and interpretation of, the Constitution. Despite conservatives’ intellectual diversity and policy differences, our future as a movement rests on our ability to defend the democratic processes defined in the Constitution.
So, how can you honor the Constitution today?
First, get a copy of the Constitution and read it. Heritage is literally giving away pocket copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Get yours today. Or, better yet, order copies for your class or civic organization.
Second, buy a copy of the Heritage Guide to the Constitution, the definitive clause-by-clause analysis of our governing document. You can read introductory essays online by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III and Professor David Forte.
Third, read some of Heritage’s First Principles publications such as Matthew Spalding’s brief introduction to the Constitution and the Constitutional Convention, Keith Whittington’s essay “How to Read the Constitution,” and Herman Belz’s monograph “Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law in America.”
Fourth, watch a lecture on the Constitution and its importance. Gordon Lloyd, Pepperdine University professor, presents the Constitutional Convention as a four-act drama. Harvey Mansfield argues that the future of conservatism rests on its ability to defend the Constitution.
Fifth, check out some of the great online resources that other organizations have made available. Many of them, such as the National Constitution Center and the Bill of Rights Institute, produce teachers’ lessons that help bring the Constitution into the classroom. Teaching American History has the best, most comprehensive and user-friendly resource on the Constitutional Convention debates available on the Web.
Finally, if you think our Constitution should be at the center of all our policy debates, not just celebrated one day a year, write to your representatives. Tell them you want to hear them connect their policy ideas to constitutional principles. And tell them every law should be based on legitimate constitutional authority.
Our Constitution is responsible for our nation’s greatness and prosperity and the remarkable stability we experience in our political life. Where other nations are vulnerable to radical movements that undermine liberty and self-government, our Constitution has been the anchor and ballast by which we maintain a stable regime. But if our Constitution is to continue to provide these blessings, we must seize opportunities to return to our fundamental principles.