The U.S. Constitution is the Sovereign Bond of the U.S. Citizenry (1889)

John A. Kasson

The political debates of the present generation leave a painful impression of the neglect of constitutional study.  A failure to apprehend the reasons upon which constitutional visions were founded has too frequently led astray the public judgment.  In this neglect numerous theories of construction have found their source, which in turn have led to additional debate, until the public records  of discussion on constitutional questions have become a massive collection, which obscures, far more than it enlightens, the popular mind.  In politics, as in religion, the commentaries have superseded the authority, as they have darkened the simplicity, of the original text.  It has become a duty of patriotism to awaken the spirit of constitutional inquiry, emancipated from the prejudices of party.

The existing histories of the Constitution, and the legal commentaries upon it, afford ample material for forming a common judgment.  But, unfortunately for the general public, they are too voluminous or too expensive for the attainment of a widespread circulation among the people.  The Constitutional Centennial Commission, therefore, have thought it wise to add to their work commemorating the great anniversary a condensed history of that instrument, which even the busy American people may find time to read.

We especially appeal to the youth and to the young manhood of the country, now preparing in the schools and universities for the higher duties and functions of citizenship, to abandon the study of superficial theories of modern party politics for the nobler study and profounder thoughts of our constitutional Fathers, - the creators of our free and powerful government and the founders of a republic which in a single century has advanced to the foremost rank of nations.

The present Union of the States, for which the Fathers so long struggled against reciprocal fears and jealousies, and amidst clashing interests, will be perfected in proportion as we agree in our appreciation of the Constitution which created and preserves it.

All vigorous and harmonious national life demands some object of common reverence and devotion.  In monarchical countries this object is the Crown, or the person on whose head it rests.  In our republic no living President, accepted or rejected as he is by a varying majority at frequent intervals, can ever become the object of general and concentrated respect and affection.  It is the great Charter bequeathed to us by our Fathers, and that alone, which can give to our whole country its central object of obedience and reverence, - an object which shall rise above the changing purposes and alliances of the passing hour.  It stands supreme, above us all, ruling or rulers and receiving their oath of allegiance.  It is surrounded by many guards against the assaults of transient human passion and the aggression of man's selfish ambitions.  It rises imperially above Congress, the Courts, and the President.  It was living before we came, it will live after we depart.  There it stands, and is ordained to remain, immovable, unchangeable, save in accordance with the laws of its own life, grand in its simplicity, majestic in its power.  To this only Sovereign of our jurisdiction and Lord Protector of our rights and liberties our allegiance and our devotion are worthily consecrated.  May the youth of our time, when they shall be seated in the places of trust and authority, show themselves the enlightened and willing servants of this immortal Sovereign.

John A. Kasson, History of the Formation of the Constitution, in History of the Celebration of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Constitution of the United States, edited by Hampton L. Carson (1889), Volume one pp. 1-3.