On Tuesday’s episode of “The Andrew Klavan Show,” Klavan gives a brief history of the Constitution and why it contains so much wisdom about human nature. Video and partial transcript below:
It’s interesting to remember, for instance, that the Constitution was the Founders’ attempt to replace the Articles of Confederation, the 1781 document that reflected the determination of the original states to preserve their sovereignty and independence. The problem was [that] the Articles of Confederation — the “AOC,” as it was called before that became an insulting term for a bobble-headed dingbat — did not give Congress enough power to hold the states together as a single nation.
So the Founders went back to the drawing board and brought out the Constitution. The states were so wary of giving the federal government even more power that a long debate ensued in which both sides argued for and against the new document. That was how we got The Federalist Papers, which gathered the arguments for the Constitution as made by John Jay and James Madison … and Alexander Hamilton, before he embarked on his legendary career as a rapper.
What is amazing when reading The Federalist Papers — and every American should read The Federalist Papers — is the deep fear the Founders felt about the vagaries of human nature. [They had a] tragic sense of man as a flawed and fallen creature given to power-hungry corruption and greed; [they had] awareness of human history, where freedom rose up rarely and always collapsed into tyranny. They had read their Plato, and their Cicero, and their Shakespeare, and they knew what men were and where they go wrong.
As Hamilton rapped, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
That quote [from Madison in The Federalist No. 51] is … full of an awareness of how fallen human nature is. So, how to solve this problem, of how to make a government that would control itself, is a riddle. And the Constitution solves that riddle by creating a sort of Rube Goldberg machine, a sort of machine you see in the old board game “Mouse Trap,” where every action would trigger another action that would check and balance the first. That way, ordinary, corrupt, stinky little humankind would be able to govern itself while the machine played one off against another to keep all of them in line.
It’s a great idea, and after it had successfully constrained the government and the people in it for about one hundred years, the frustrated power grabbers began to disassemble it, often through Supreme Court cases that changed the original intent of the Founders’ words. Why did they do it? Because as the poet T.S. Eliot said, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”
The Constitution is a constant reminder of what we constantly want to forget. We are fallen creatures. Every single one of us … can only be free through humility, virtue, and the fear of God. When politicians run from the Constitution, those are the self-evident truths they are running from. It’s up to us to stop them. It’s up to us to remember, in the thick of our most heated battles: If we do not play by the rules of the Constitution, we may win the day and lose everything.