Those words -- which, by the way, do not include ``federal'' or ``democracy'' -- comprise a subtle, complicated structure that nourishes various aims and virtues. So it would be wonderful if some of the liberal groups now gearing up for a histrionic meltdown over the coming debate about the confirmation of John Roberts could spend a few hours at the National Constitution Center. Judging by the river of rhetoric that has flowed in response to the Supreme Court vacancy, contemporary liberalism's narrative of American constitutional history goes something like this:
On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere galloped through the Massachusetts countryside, and to every Middlesex village and farm went his famous cry of alarm, ``The British are coming! The British are coming to menace the ancient British right to abortion!'' The next morning, by the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April's breeze unfurled, the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard round the world in defense of the right to abortion. The Articles of Confederation, ratified near the end of the Revolutionary War to Defend Abortion Rights, proved unsatisfactory, so in the summer of 1787, 55 framers gathered here to draft a Constitution. Even though this city was sweltering, the framers kept the windows of Independence Hall closed. Some say that was to keep out the horseflies. Actually, it was to preserve secrecy conducive to calm deliberations about how to craft a more perfect abortion right. The Constitution was ratified after the state conventions vigorously debated the right to abortion. But 74 years later, a great Civil War had to be fought to defend the Constitution against states that would secede from the Union rather than acknowledge that a privacy right to abortion is an emanation loitering in the penumbra of other rights. And so on.
The exhibits at the National Constitution Center can correct the monomania of some liberals by reminding them that the Constitution expresses the philosophy of natural rights: People have various rights, including and especially the right to property and self-government. These rights are not created by government, which exists to balance and protect the rights in their variety.
And the center can remind conservatives of an awkward -- to some of them -- fact: The Constitution was written to correct the defects of the Articles of Confederation. That is, to strengthen the federal government.