On Sept. 17, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the United States Constitution at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. This month marks the 226th anniversary of this landmark moment in American history when our founding fathers gathered together to form “a more perfect Union.”
Our Constitution remains one of the world’s greatest achievements. In a time when monarchs, czars, and emperors ruled the world, the supreme law of the United States of America represented a novel and revolutionary idea – a living document creating a government of “We the People” and guaranteeing the natural rights of its citizens.
Much has changed in more than two centuries since the Constitution was signed. According to the first census in 1790, less than 4 million people lived in the United States. Today, our population exceeds 312 million. Whether it is separating the powers of government or securing the inalienable freedoms for all Americans, this living document has withstood the test of time.
Over the years, activist judges and some in government have moved away from the Constitutional principles of a limited federal government to pursue their individual agendas. From President Obama choosing which laws to enforce, to Senate Democrats hoping to further restrict law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights, our constitutional freedoms continue to be challenged.
Since Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives in January of 2011, members of Congress are required to provide a constitutional authority statement with every bill introduced, identifying the specific part of the Constitution that gives Congress the authority to take legislative action.
Like every other member who has had the honor to represent their neighbors in Congress, I took an oath to support and defend the United States Constitution upon taking office – similar to the oath taken by every president, military officer, and Supreme Court judge. Today, those 4,543 words in the Constitution continue to guide my principles and decision-making on behalf of Central Washington residents.
I firmly believe that we have the best system of government in the world, which was established by the Constitution. However, there is no question that it will continue to take hard work to preserve and protect the rights and freedoms guaranteed by this governing document. When asked by a citizen on the closing day of the Constitutional Convention whether they had created a republic or a monarchy, Benjamin Franklin responded, “A republic, if we can keep it.”
Franklin’s statement is as true today as it was 226 years ago.
Rep. Doc Hastings represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District, including part of Okanogan County.