This is the eighth in a series of posts closely reading the Constitution of the United States for homeland security implications. Readers are encouraged to use the comment function to add background, analysis, exegesis or exposition related to the text highlighted.
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.
The Constitution is a covenant of the founding generation with their unknown (unknowing?) descendants. It puts in place what modern scholars of complexity theory might call simple rules for self-organization and self-correction. The Framers were wise enough to know they could not know — and ought not try to control — how future generations would decide. But they could put in motion a system predisposed to liberty and justice.
In 1780 John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:
The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.
The first generation did its job extraordinarily well (the perpetuation of slavery being the dramatic exception). The second generation was at least as gifted (though there does seem to be a systemic bias toward concentration of wealth). We were also helped by the profound folly of others. The transition to the third generation has, however, been a bit uneven it seems to me. We may now even need remedial instruction in the hard-learned lessons of the first and second.