Tuesday, January 11, 2011


There has been some controversy generated over the reading of the United States Constitution during the opening session of the new Congress, organized by the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner. It had to do with “scrubbing” the document, ostensibly to conform it to the amendments (which affected some of the original text) and, in particular, the failure to read the part of Article I, Section 2 stating that each slave shall count as 3/5 of a person in determining the number of seats in the House allotted to each state.

To understand the history of the Constitution, and of our country, the original text should not be “scrubbed.” The 3/5 compromise with the slaveholding states was integral to our nation’s founding, just as the abolitionist movement and the civil war that led to amendments ending slavery and according former slaves full citizenship are to what followed. How can you understand what the amendments mean without understanding what they are amending?

One thing the Congressional readers did not have to remove from the document is any reference to political parties. Why? Because there are none. One would hope that some Members reflected on the irony that the document which establishes the structure of Congress and the rest of our government is as nonpartisan as our government is partisan. If they did, they surely did not speak up about it, as to do so would, no doubt, hurt their chances for important committee assignments, and other perks of office, all of which are doled out on a partisan basis.