My Public Plea for Constitutional Literacy...

Caveat: This may be the most legal-heavy post I've ever done here, but that's only because the stakes are so high. Carry on.

Just because it comes in your size doesn't mean you should wear it.

Case in point (and, ladies, you're welcome).
Stolen Attributed to SodaHead.

That adage isn't just for clothing either...In fact, it is apropos on other occasions, such as reading. Just because you can read a thing, doesn't necessarily mean that you should read a thing (looking at you Robert Jordan!) or that you will understand said reading material (I took graduate classes in the Philosophy of Physics from Oxford professors...trust me on this one).

Bastard. Hardest. Bastard. Class. Ever. Bastard.

And, the adage absolutely is salient to an object of veneration, such as the Constitution of the United States, that brilliant flexible document from the Enlightenment. It should be taken with gravity, because it is weighty, it is important (especially Article III, really go read that one), and absolutely should not be read aloud by those who do not understand it, honor it, or care about the provisions it doesn't like (such as the XIVth Amendment) simply to score cheap political points.

But, that would be asking too much, wouldn't it? Per the BBC

Republicans have opened the second day of their rule in the House of Representatives with a full reading of the US Constitution, the first time the entire document has been read aloud in Congress.

The reading was prompted in part by Tea Party activists concerned that the document has been somewhat sidelined.

Representatives from both parties took turns reading different sections.

The fact that democrats went along with this political grandstanding was absolutely nauseating. Simply nauseating.

I am all for reading the Constitution. I think everyone should read it. My daughter read the entire thing, then paraphrased it in her own 9 year old vernacular. As a result, she's a better person, a better student and a better citizen. Everyone should have to do it. As an AP Government student, I didn't. Taking political science classes in college, I didn't. Hell, even in most law schools it's not required to read the entire thing (really, most people never even read the Public Lands clause until it's time to study for the bar).

So, rather than grandstand, I've decided to perform a public service, one that I hope you sincerely will take me up on. 

1. Below is complete version of the Constitution. Every word, every amendment. Please read it.

The Constitution with Annotations
File Size and Format
Article I. Legislative Department (also see Supplements)
PDF 1.1M
Article II. Executive Department (also see Supplements)
PDF 640K
Article III. Judicial Department (also see Supplements)
PDF 836K
Article IV. States' Relations (also see Supplements)
PDF 249K
Article V. Mode of Amendment
PDF 112K
Article VI. Prior Debts, National Supremacy, Oaths of Office
PDF 164K
Article VII. Ratification
Amendments to the Constitution
File Size and Format
First Through Tenth Amendments: Bill of Rights
First Amendment--Religion and Expression (also see Supplements)
PDF 819K
Second Amendment--Bearing Arms
Third Amendment--Quartering Soldiers
Fourth Amendment--Search and Seizure (also see Supplements)
PDF 293K
Fifth Amendment--Rights of Persons (also see Supplements)
PDF 458K
Sixth Amendment--Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions (also see Supplements)
PDF 220K
Seventh Amendment--Civil Trials
PDF 108K
Eighth Amendment--Further Guarantees in Criminal Cases (also see Supplements)
PDF 184K
Ninth Amendment--Unenumerated Rights
Tenth Amendment--Reserved Powers
Eleventh Amendment--Suits Against States (also see Supplements)
PDF 148K
Twelfth Amendment--Election of President
Thirteenth Amendment--Slavery and Involuntary Servitude
Fourteenth Amendment--Rights Guaranteed: Privileges and Immunities of Citizenship, Due Process, and Equal Protection (also see Supplements)
PDF 1.1M
Fifteenth Amendment--Rights of Citizens to Vote
PDF 140K
Sixteenth Amendment--Income Tax
Seventeenth Amendment--Popular Election of Senators
Eighteenth Amendment--Prohibition of Intoxicating Liquors
Nineteenth Amendment--Women's Suffrage Rights
Twentieth Amendment--Terms of President, Vice President, Members of Congress: Presidential Vacancy
Twenty-First Amendment--Repeal of Eighteenth Amendment
Twenty-Second Amendment--Presidential Tenure
Twenty-Third Amendment--Presidential Electors for the District of Columbia
Twenty-Fourth Amendment--Abolition of the Poll Tax Qualification in Federal Elections
Twenty-Fifth Amendment--Presidential Vacancy, Disability, and Inability
Twenty-Sixth Amendment--Reduction of Voting Age Qualification
Twenty-Seventh Amendment--Congressional Pay Limitation
Via the U.S. General Portal Access www.gpoaccess.gov.

 2. That can be daunting, and sometimes thing pertaining to individual liberties, powers of the President, Administrative law as a shadow government and Congressional powers are absolutely inscrutable to the non-legal trained (and, even then, to us).  So, if you find yourself befuddled by the language, try these helpful pointers to understanding the Constitution of the United States:

  • Read the history of how it was formed. A more fascinating story will never be told. 
  • Check out the Amendments which were proposed, but never ratified by the States.
  • For those with no legal education, or for those who truly want to understand how things work, and do so in generally laymen's terms, you will absolutely do no better than Prof. Linder's Constitutional Interpretation site at the University of Missouri-KC, School of Law. This should be required reading for every senior in American High Schools and/or Freshmen in College.
  • For those with an advanced understanding, such as law students, poly sci folks, lawyers, and regular ole informed, educated citizens with a fascination for such, I highly recommend Jack Balkin's Balkinization blog. While this largely revolves around Executive powers and the interplay between politics and Constitutional law, the discussions are always lively, and more than well-researched.

Seriously. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to your country.

You also need to find out who this Virginian is, one who bears a University named in his honor in that State, was the 4th President of the U.S., and absolutely dead-on about most things constitutional...since, you know, he wrote the fucking thing.


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