Understanding the Constitution
I wish to applaud the comments of the constitutional scholars quoted in “Reading between Constitution’s lines” [Style, Jan. 5] about the futility of divining the Constitution’s original meanings by a literal construction of its language.
The Constitution was intended to give the nation a new-modeled system of centralized republican government endowed with new powers and a tripartite structure after the state-centered confederation system had broken down because of failed state attempts to tax their populations. Purposefully framed to redeem republicanism and to create a strong, stable, accountable system that would serve existing and future national needs, the Constitution won approval not just by pragmatic political compromises (including protections for slavery) but by the calculated imprecision and ambiguity of its wording. By achieving generalized simplicity it made itself hospitable to new applications and interpretations that have enabled it to endure as the world’s oldest constitution, while many overly precise and detailed constitutions have ended in history’s dustbin.
Roger H. Brown, Reston
While reading the Jan. 5 Style article on the recitation of the Constitution, I was amused by a quote from New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D). He said, “You are not supposed to worship your constitution. You are supposed to govern your government by it.” I believe if the Democrats had followed that statement, they’d still be running the House. But governing by feel-good and political payoffs instead of the Constitution didn’t work. If Mr. Nadler really believes what he said, I nominate him to be the next Tea Party candidate.
David L. Griffith, Belleville, Ill.