The Constitution — Our Liberty Charter

Taking the oath of office, swearing to uphold the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Idaho, has been a great privilege and sacred honor.  These documents, which have a genealogy of at least 900 years of sacrifice and struggle, safeguard and secure the liberty, progress, and happiness of the human family.

In 1100 AD, Henry I murdered his brother and became the king of England.  The English people were understandably concerned about the future conduct of their new king and successfully pressured him to sign the 1100 Charter of Liberties, promising that he would govern justly: that inheritors of an estate would not have to pay the king in order to receive it, that men who made law would not be allowed to be above it, and that the church would remain free from government control.  This was the first of the foundational documents our framers referred to as ‘The Liberty Charter.’

One hundred years later, the English throne was graced by King John, a massive-taxation king who began executing his subjects for failure to pay their taxes.  John also violated the promises made in the 1100 Charter of Liberties by taking control of the church.  In response, the English people risked life and limb to rebel and crafted the Magna Carta, or Great Charter, demanding for the first time that even a King must be subject to the rule of law.  The Magna Carta included an enforcement mechanism, a committee of twenty-five men authorized to sit in the king’s court and enforce his compliance with it.  With a sword at his throat, King John signed the Magna Carta and constitutional, representative government was born.

The Magna Carta declared, among other things, that there should be no taxation without representation and that citizens aggrieved by the actions of government had a right to petition for redress.  Nearly 600 years later the Declaration of Independence, which was a petition for redress of grievances, would follow the pattern laid out in the Magna Carta.  The Magna Carta also became the pattern for our own United States Constitution.  In fact, the concepts found in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th amendments of the United States Constitution come from clauses 38-40 in the Magna Carta.

From 1200-1700 AD Englishmen struggled to maintain their hard-won freedoms, with various kings frequently dissolving parliament when disagreements arose.  Through it all, the English people held to the Magna Carta as a constitution, and it gave rise to other important governing documents. 

The English drafted the Petition of 1628, declaring that due process may not be granted and taken away based on convenience and that liberty is the inherent possession of men—not the gift of government. In 1641 AD, another petition, The Grand Remonstrance, laid out a new set of grievances, declaring, among other things, that a fiat monetary system is a form of treason.  In 1689, the English Bill of Rights, yet another advancement to the British Constitution, gave voice to the ‘separation of powers’ doctrine, declaring that if a king is writing law when that power is reserved to parliament alone, the result is the destruction of liberty.

America’s framers treasured these documents—their Charter of Liberties, patterned governance in the New World after them, and eventually pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to defend the principles contained in them. 

Sadly, some fail to appreciate this genealogy and the price which has been paid over centuries to engrave these precious principles in our constitutions and our culture.  They criticize our United States Constitution as outdated, as if it were the cheap result of a single drawn-out argument in a stuffy room with shuttered windows and green table cloths.  They are far too anxious to renovate, remodel, or re-invent it. 

May we ever remember that freedom is much more easily lost than gained.  May we cherish, safeguard, and honor the precious heritage embodied in the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Idaho. 

Happy Constitution Day!