The American Constitution is the oldest written constitution and has served as a model for other constitutions around the world. It is simple and flexible and was drafted during the late eighteenth century with the primary objective of providing a systematical administrative framework for governing four million people in thirteen states that were situated on the Atlantic coast. At present it caters to the needs of two hundred sixty million US citizens across fifty states that span the area between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Till date twenty seven amendments were made to the American Constitution, which has proved to be the most efficient administrative framework in the world (THE CONSTITUTION: AN ENDURING DOCUMENT).
The adoption of the Constitution was fraught with difficulties. In 1776, thirteen British colonies seceded from the UK in order to form the United States of America. Their congress adopted the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union in the year 1777. However, these Articles granted very limited powers to the states. Since, the federal government was dependent on the state legislatures, a drastic change was required and this led to the adoption of a new document on the 4th of March, 1789. This document became the Constitution of the United States of America and its fundamental objective was to promote a strong elected federal government that reflected the will of the people. The Constitution has bestowed the federal government with widespread powers to govern interstate relations and foreign affairs. In the late eighteenth century Americans were of the opinion that government was akin to a fire – a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Consequently, the government was considered a force that controlled and inspired fear in the people. In the year 1787 a new fear arose in the minds of the people that the central federal government that was to be established under the guidelines of the Constitution would be enforced through the various amendments proposed by the State Ratifying Conventions. These objectives of these amendments were to impose rigid policies and control the federal government according to the wishes of the states. Thus the federal government could pose a threat to their liberty (A Principle of The Traditional American Philosophy).
This fear was reasonable as the federal government would be in a position to abuse the power bestowed on it by the people. Furthermore, it could prevent interference by the people and this could repeal the freedom and inalienable rights of the individuals. The adoption of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 contain protests against the abuse of power and usurpation of power by the Federal government through the Alien and Sedition Laws, which were adopted by Congress in the year 1798. The Sedition Act restricted freedom of speech and freedom of the press. By using this act the government was able to muzzle criticism of Federal officials. Thus the government was in a position to breach the provisions of the Constitution (A Principle of The Traditional American Philosophy).
These protests in Kentucky and Virginia had been preceded by the 1790 Protest and Remonstrance against the ruling of the federal government regarding the imposition of war expenditure on the states, which was considered to be unconstitutional. Subsequently, several more States protested against the abuse and usurpation of power by the Federal government. In the month of May, 1776 the American people’s view on freedom from governance was expressed in the Pittsfield Petition of 1776. This petition demonstrated the sentiments of the people of the Berkshire County and was construed to be the true sentiments of Americans. Thus the people were fearful of establishing a strong Federal government in the late eighteenth century as they were unwilling to forego Individual Liberty and their unalienable rights (A Principle of The Traditional American Philosophy).
Although, every American accords great importance to national security, nevertheless the fact remains that measures to protect the latter have to be stringent as well as intelligent. The best way to achieve such a stratagem would be to seek the active cooperation of the States of the Union rather than to adopt coercive measures. An instance of the folly of adopting coercive measures is provided by the REAL ID Act. It is uncontestable that Americans attach great value and importance to their privacy and consequently they have always been wary of a Federal government that attempts to adopt overreaching measures. Another such instance is the abuse of the trust reposed by the American citizens in the Federal government by the misuse of the powers conferred on it by the PATRIOT Act. The Federal government has utilized this act to violate the rule of law as well as the US Constitution (Testimony Of Allen Gilbert Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union Of Vermont, On The Topic Of Will REAL ID Actually Make Us Safer? An Examination Of Privacy And Civil Liberties Concerns , 2007).
The penchant of the Federal government to invade the privacy of individuals, on the pretext of national security, has prompted many congressional committees to bring in legislation that would make it compulsory to maintain the secrecy of personal data obtained from the private sector. This is because the main data source of the Federal government is the private sector and despite such data being inaccurate on occasion, the Federal government has utilized it in combination with a total disregard for privacy and security laws to cause considerable harassment to the general public (Sternstein, 2006). Thus the fear of misuse of authority by the Federal government is well founded and as relevant today as it was in the eighteenth century.
A Principle of The Traditional American Philosophy. (n.d.). Retrieved June 26, 2007, from http://www.lexrex.com/enlightened/AmericanIdeal/yardstick/pr2.html
Sternstein, A. (2006, June 19). Diamonds in the data. Federal agencies increasingly use data mining to extract valuable info buried in large databases . Retrieved June 27, 2007, from http://www.fcw.com/article94909-06-19-06-Print
Testimony Of Allen Gilbert Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union Of Vermont, On The Topic Of Will REAL ID Actually Make Us Safer? An Examination Of Privacy And Civil Liberties Concerns . (2007, May 8). Retrieved June 27, 2007, from http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200705/050807.html
THE CONSTITUTION: AN ENDURING DOCUMENT. (n.d.). Retrieved June 26, 2007, from Outline of U.S. Government: http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/outusgov/ch1.htm