I’m going to go out on a very weak limb, and although I’m far from a “heavyweight” in American history, I think it will hold me. I hear and read a lot of comments and assertions from those that I would expect to be more knowledgeable than me, and when something doesn’t sound quite right, I tuck it away. Then eventually I dust off a book from my library or get on my trusty old laptop and investigate. Occasionally, it turns out I am not the dolt I thought I was.
As a result of my top notch investigative talents, there are a couple of persistent issues I would like to clarify for those arrogant, superior know-it-alls who seem to have trouble differentiating between the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Why is it that every time people chastise me for my unreasonably restrictive attitude on some hot button issue, they speak of their “Constitutional” right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? The phrase, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is not from the Constitution, but from the Declaration of Independence. The preamble to the Constitution states:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
There is nothing in the preamble about life or the pursuit of happiness. Of the seven original articles in the Constitution, Articles I, II, and III pertain to the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. Article IV pertains to the states, Article V, amendments, Article VI, debts, supremacy, oaths, and Article VII, ratification.
Smiling smugly, there will be some that say, “That’s only seven, you feeble-minded pissant, and there happens to be ten. They’re called the Bill of Rights.” So, you’ve already snagged them, and now you reel them in. The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the constitution, and if you really want to enrage a few, you could always reel these off.
Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression
Amendment 2 – Right to Bear Arms
Amendment 3 – Quartering of Soldiers
Amendment 4- Search and Seizure.
Amendment 5 – Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings
Amendment 6 – Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses
Amendment 7 – Trial by Jury in Civil Cases.
Amendment 8 – Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Amendment 9 – Construction of Constitution
Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and People
Now that your intellectual superior has been duly taken down a notch or four, let’s have a closer look at a bit of the Declaration of Independence, you know, that “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” thing. The intent is quite beautifully stated.
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness……”
So there you have it, the shortest crash course ever presented on these two documents, by arguably the lowest level yahoo to ever barely pass history. You know, I expect more from people that collectively dismiss me and my thoughts, my humble opinions, and my right to voice them, than quotes and explanations from the wrong source. I admit, I had to double check, because of my inclination to doubt my fading memory, and turns out it was indeed worth it. It’s enlightening to go back and read these two documents.
So the next time one of these common misconceptions is thrown out there as a valid argument, and it’s a given that it will be, don’t sit there like I used to do and question yourself. Speak up and embarrass the crap out of the pontificating poop. You’ll be glad you did. Come to think of it, I should be thanking the many who are always testing my minuscule knowledge of history, because now, I’m going for the gold. I’m going to find out for sure if there really are 57 states.
Note: The accompanying photo was found by typing “constitution” in a morguefile search.I dunno, it kinda looks like the Declaration of Independence.