Fun Fact #2: Ruled By the Dead?

Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s Founding Fathers, believed that the Constitution should be rewritten every nineteen years.

In a letter to James Madison concerning the subject, Jefferson had said, “I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self evident, ‘that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living.'”  By this, he’d meant that only those alive are entitled to receiving the rights granted by nature and society. This seems to be a sensible notion; our generation may choose to switch up the ground rules, without being dragged down by boundaries set by generations long dead.

Though the Constitution has been amended almost thirty times since, it has not been completely scrapped and rewritten a single time. A solid Constitution enables a country to follow a secure, predictable path; so it is a preserving facet. Ruled by the dead could be an exaggeration, but new generations living by a Constitution drafted nearly two centuries ago is, in theory, just that.

While We the People being replaced with We the Living is no guarantee, it is certain to say that, yes—we are ruled by the dead. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? I cannot say, except that it is an eerie notion to wrap my mind around, however truthful it is.


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