Louis Michael Seidman, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, has written an article for the New York Times which urges Americans to disobey their Constitution, claiming that the 1789 document and its 27 amendments are evil.
By way of supporting his opinion, Seidman characterizes the delegates who met in Philadelphia 226 years ago as:
“a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves”
It is always troubling to me when a man of apparently impeccable academic credentials chooses to publish statements which are false and/or snide.
Seidman surely knows that the Founders were men of considerable learning and knowledge about government, politics, human nature and the rule of law.
His ridiculous jab that they thought it was fine to own slaves is simply unworthy of a scholar. See: http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=122 for an enlightened discussion of the question.
And claiming that the Founders acted illegally is especially egregious. Let’s look at the record. This is what the Congress actually said:
Whereas there is provision in the Articles of Confederation & perpetual Union for making alterations therein by the Assent of a Congress of the United States and of the legislatures of the several States; And whereas experience hath evinced that there are defects in the present Confederation, as a mean to remedy which several of the States and particularly the State of New York by express instructions to their delegates in Congress have suggested a convention for the purposes expressed in the following resolution and such Convention appearing to be the most probable mean of establishing in these states a firm national government.
Resolved that in the opinion of Congress it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several states be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the states render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government & the preservation of the Union.
Here’s Seidman: “They were instructed to suggest amendments to the Articles of Confederation.”
Here’s Congress: “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.”
To “revise” is to change, to rewrite, to rethink, to reconsider, to do over.
The words “amend,” “amendment,” or “amendments” do not appear in the Congress’s resolution.
The preamble paragraph says that there are “defects in the present Confederation.” It does not say that there are simply defects in the Articles, but that there are defects in the Confederation itself.
Equally telling are the last words of that paragraph which speak of “establishing in these states a firm national government.”
Finally, Congress’s charge concludes with the goal of a “federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government and the preservation of the Union.”
So Seidman ignores the plain words of Congress. He also ignores history. The fact is that the recalcitrance of a few states to agree upon amendments to the Articles of Confederation was precisely one of its principal defects.
Rhode Island didn’t send delegates to Philadelphia. Everyone knew that there would be no unanimous consent to the new constitution.
Professor Seidman has written a book titled On Constitutional Disobedience.
His deliberately provocative op ed piece in the New York Times is no doubt intended to go viral, cause a controversy and sell a lot of books.
He seems to be getting his wish. Start with about 700 emails, many offering to bust his nose, etc.
I’ll probably buy the book. He sounds like a liberal who is ready to scrap the rule of law and place the safety and happiness of the American people in the hands of a ruling elite, credentialed by Eastern Universities, sure of their own rectitude, and empowered by money and the political imprimatur that it buys.
Still, I have to agree that constitutional reform is imperative. That’s why I support an Article V Convention.
It’s the people’s charter. Elected officials are sworn to uphold it.
Constitutional disobedience cannot be allowed to stand.