As part of a series called Constitution Café, moderator Chris Phillips is asking some thought-provoking questions about foundational constitutional issues. First up: Should part of the Declaration of Independence be incorporated into the Constitution?
That was one idea that appealed to James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” during the Bill of Rights debate. Madison actually proposed it when he submitted the draft of the Bill of Rights in 1789.
On June 8, 1789, Madison told Congress the Preamble needed a “pre-Preamble.”
“First. That there be prefixed to the Constitution a declaration, that all power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people. That Government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right of acquiring and using property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. That the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change their Government, whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the purposes of its institution.”
Madison’s idea didn’t make it pass the committee stage, and it wasn’t included in the Bill of Rights.
Our question for discussion: Should we affix a Declaration to our Constitution, and if so, should it be the one that Madison had in mind?
Let us know what you think by commenting below: