A citizen's constitutional rights can hardly be infringed simply because
a majority of the people choose that it be.
A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be
restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.
A country that can put men on the moon can put women in the Constitution.
All our work, our whole life is a matter of semantics, because words are
the tools with which we work, the material out of which laws are made,
out of which the Constitution was written. Everything depends on our
understanding of them.
(A)s terrible as it was, 9/11 did not repeal the Constitution.
As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its
principles in their own search for greater freedom.
At the constitutional level where we work, ninety percent of any
decision is emotional. The rational part of us supplies the reasons for
supporting our predilections.
-Charles Evans Hughes
Congress no longer declares war or makes budgets. So that's the end of
the constitution as a working machine.
Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is
that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate
for the possible change of things.
Corruption, the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty.
Demagogues and agitators are very unpleasant, they are incidental to a
free and constitutional country, and you must put up with these
inconveniences or do without many important advantages.
Democracy means that people can say what they want to. All the people.
It means that they can vote as they wish. All the people. It means that
they can worship God in any way they feel right, and that includes
Christians and Jews and voodoo doctors as well. It means that everybody
should have a job, if he's willing to work, and an education, and the
right to bring up his children without fear of the future. And it means
that the old shall be provided for, without shame to themselves or to
their families. It means do unto others as you would have others do unto
you. It also means the prayers of the pilgrim fathers in the wilderness,
and the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United
States, and the Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation, and
the dreams of an immigrant mother for her children. And that's what I
Each public officer who takes an oath to support the constitution swears
that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is
understood by others.
Even the most vile murderer does not release the state from its
constitutional obligation to respect human dignity, for the state does
not honor the victim by emulating the murderer who took his life. The
fatal infirmity of capital punishment is that it treats members of the
human race as non-humans, as objects to be toyed with and discarded.
J. Brennan, Jr.
Experience has already shown that the impeachment the Constitution has
provided is not even a scarecrow.
For legislators make the citizens good by forming habits in them, and
this is the wish of every legislator, and those who do not effect it
miss their mark, and it is in this that a good constitution differs from
a bad one.
History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of
urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.
Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution of your country and the
government established under it. Leave evils which exist in some parts
of the country, but which are beyond your control, to the all-wise
direction of an over-ruling Providence. Perform those duties which are
present, plain and positive. Respect the laws of your country.
I also wish that the Pledge of Allegiance were directed at the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as it is when the President takes
his oath of office, rather than to the flag and the nation.
I always keep my Constitution in my coat pocket... You ought to keep one
on you all the time.
I believe that our Constitution, with its absolute guarantee of
individual rights, is the best hope for the aspirations of freedom which
men share everywhere.
I have a problem with people who take the Constitution loosely and the
I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but
the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to
exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to
take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is
the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.
I love my liberty, and imprisonment would be, to say the least, very
disagreeable to me; but there are some things that are even less
desirable, among them one's loss of self-respect and the loss of
inherent and lawful constitutional right.
I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps themselves up in the
Constitution over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps
themselves up in the flag.
I think there are only three things America will be known for 2,000
years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz
music, and baseball.
I'm afraid the Constitution doesn't say anything about the separation of
church and politics.
-Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr.
I've always been a big supporter of the constitutional right of the
people to peaceably assemble and petition government for redress of
grievances. It's just that I never envisioned it taking the form of
thousands of people screaming, 'You asshole, you asshole,' at me.
If our free society is to endure, and I know it will, those who govern
must recognize that the Framers of the Constitution limited their power
in order to preserve human dignity and the air of freedom which is our
-William J. Brennan, Jr.
If the Constitution of the United States cannot extend the arm of
protection around the weakest and humblest of American citizens as
around the strongest and proudest, then it is not worth the paper it is
-James Weldon Johnson
If you have a weak candidate and a weak platform, wrap yourself up in
the American flag and talk about the Constitution.
It is contended by many that ours is a Christian government, founded
upon the Bible, and that all who look upon the book as false or foolish
are destroying the foundation of our country. The truth is, our
government is not founded upon the rights of gods, but upon the rights
of men. Our Constitution was framed, not to declare and uphold the deity
of Christ, but the sacredness of humanity. Ours is the first government
made by the people and for the people. It is the only nation with which
the gods have had nothing to do. And yet there are some judges dishonest
and cowardly enough to solemnly decide that this is a Christian country,
and that our free institutions are based upon the infamous laws of
-Robert G. Ingersoll
It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle
to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in
It is wrong to use some constitutional provisions as springboards for
major social change while treating others like senile relatives to be
cooped up in a nursing home until they quit annoying us.
It should be mandatory that every president would read the Constitution.
Too many swear to uphold the Constitution and then make end runs around
It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional.
Let it be borne on the flag under which we rally in every exigency, that
we have one country, one constitution, one destiny.
Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no
constitution, no law, no court can save it.
Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the
liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.
Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted
communication, whatever its merit.
On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry
ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect
the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning
may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the
probable one in which it was passed.
One can conclude that certain essential, or fundamental, rights should
exist in any just society. It does not follow that each of those
essential rights is one that we as judges can enforce under the written
One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from
oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights. Minorities
have a right to appeal to the Constitution as a shield against such
-James K. Polk
Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise
that it will last; but nothing in this world is certain but death and
Our Constitution protects aliens, drunks, and U.S. Senators. There ought
to be one day (just one) when there is open season on senators.
Our Constitution was not written in the sands to be washed away by each
wave of new judges blown in by each successive political wind.
Our forefathers weren't the Pilgrims. We didn't land on Plymouth Rock.
The rock was landed on us. We were brought here against our will. We
were not brought here to be made citizens. We were not brought here to
enjoy the constitutional gifts that they speak so beautifully about
Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving
government the power to control men's minds.
People who burn the flag are exercising their Constitutional rights.
Congressman who take money from special interest groups are abusing
-Kevin G. Barkes
Philadelphia was the first city to foresee the advantages of a Federal
constitution and oatmeal as a breakfast food.
Preferring members of any one group for no reason other than race or
ethnic origin is discrimination for its own sake. This the Constitution
-Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
Since when is public safety the root password to the Constitution?
Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice
that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original
document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and
promises not fulfilled. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the
Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and the
other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights.
Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem
them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They
ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human.
Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and government in
the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by
Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already
furnished in their short history.
Surely they knew that the very idea of the future came in an American
box- complete with instructions for assembling a Constitution, a
MacDonald's hamburger franchise, a row of Marriot hotels and a First
-Lewis H. Lapham
Thank God, under our Constitution there was no connection between church
-James K. Polk
The American Constitution is, so far as I can see, the most wonderful
work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.
The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make
and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution
which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act
of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.
The case for freedom, the case for our constitutional principles the
case for our heritage has to be made anew in each generation. The work
of freedom is never done.
The Constitution doesn't belong to a bunch of judges and lawyers. It
belongs to you.
The Constitution is a delusion and a snare if the weakest and humblest
man in the land cannot be defended in his right to speak and his right
to think as much as the strongest in the land.
The Constitution was framed fundamentally as a bulwark against
governmental power, and preventing the arbitrary administration of
punishment is a basic ideal of any society that purports to be governed
by the rule of law.
-William J. Brennan, Jr.
The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of
The constitutional vision of human dignity rejects the possibility of
political orthodoxy imposed from above; it respects the right of each
individual to form and to express political judgments, however far they
may deviate from the mainstream and however unsettling they might be to
the powerful or the elite.
-William J. Brennan, Jr.
The establishment of the chaplainship in Congress is a palpable
violation of equal rights as well as of Constitutional principles. The
danger of silent accumulations and encroachments by ecclesiastical
bodies has not sufficiently engaged attention in the U.S.
The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do
not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots.
Gerry (speech at the 1787 Constitutional Convention)
The genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it might
have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of
its great principles to cope with current problems and current needs.
J. Brennan, Jr.
The gentlemen who wrote the Constitution were as suspicious of efficient
government as they were wary of democracy, a 'turbulence and a folly'
that was associated with the unruly ignorance of an urban mob.
The government they devised was defective from the start, requiring
several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to
attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the
freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.
The great cause of revolutions is this, that while nations move onward,
constitutions stand still.
-Thomas Babington Macaulay
The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little
The layman's Constitutional view is that what he likes is Constitutional
and that which he doesn't like is un-Constitutional. That about measures
up the Constitutional acumen of the average person.
The mind is no match with the heart in persuasion; constitutionality is
no match with compassion.
The miners lost because they had only the constitution. The other side
had bayonets. In the end, bayonets always win.
-Mary Harris Jones
The people of these United States are the rightful masters of both
Congresses and courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to
overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.
(The press) is not a fourth branch of government, the press plays an
essential role in 'obliging the government to control itself.' And if we
do not serve in this way, the rest of the rights guaranteed by our
Constitution cannot be sustained.
The property qualifications for federal office that the framers of the
Constitution expressly chose to exclude for demonstrating an unseemly
'veneration of wealth' are now de facto in force and higher than the
Founding Fathers could have imagined.
The public welfare demands that constitutional cases must be decided
according to the terms of the Constitution itself, and not according to
judges' views of fairness, reasonableness, or justice.
The right to be let alone is the underlying principle of the
Constitution's Bill of Rights.
-Erwin N. Griswold
The U.S. Constitution and the Bible have a lot in common. Few people
have read them in their entirety; they are quoted out of context and
cherry-picked; their official interpreters wear robes and issue
pronouncements that sometimes benefit an entitled few or discriminate
against women and minorities; and their decrees and commandments are
simply ignored when they interfere with the interests of those in power.
The U.S. constitution is an extraordinary document. In my view, it
should not be amended often.
There can be no impairment of executive power, whether on the state or
federal level, where actions pursuant to that power are impermissible
under the Constitution. Where there is no power, there can be no
impairment of power.
-William J. Brennan, Jr.
There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know
what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be
-Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
There is no Constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution
is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong- deadly wrong- to deny
any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is
no issue of States' rights or National rights. There is only the
struggle for human rights.
-Lyndon B. Johnson
There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two
great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in
opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be
dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit
it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can
exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their
revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.
Today's Constitution is a realistic document of freedom only because of
several corrective amendments. Those amendments speak to a sense of
decency and fairness that I and other blacks cherish.
Ultimately all the questions boil down to one- Whether we as a people
will try fearfully and futilely to preserve democracy by adopting
totalitarian methods, or whether in accordance with our traditions, and
our constitution we will have the confidence and courage to be free.
Under our constitutional system, courts stand, against any winds that
blow, as havens of refuge for those who might otherwise suffer because
they are helpless, weak, outnumbered, or because they are nonconforming
victims of prejudice and public excitement.
Violence has no constitutional sanction; and every government from the
beginning has moved against it. But where grievances pile high and most
of the elected spokesmen represent the Establishment, violence may be
the only effective response.
-William O. Douglas
We current justices read the Constitution in the only way that we can:
as 20th-century Americans.
-William J. Brennan, Jr.
We have built into the constitution of the human race the habit and
desire of taking, as divorced from its natural precursor and concomitant
-Charlotte Perkins Gilman
We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest
democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of
militarised republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was
monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that
saw to it we will have neither. I don't know how wise they were.
What becomes of our democracy when such conditions of inequality as
these can be brought about through chicanery, he open violation of the
law and defiance of the Constitution?
-James Weldon Johnson
Where mass opinion dominates the government, there is a morbid
derangement of the true functions of power. The derangement brings about
the enfeeblement, verging on paralysis, of the capacity to govern. This
breakdown in the constitutional order is the cause of the precipitate
and catastrophic decline of Western society.
With respect to the words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them
as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them
in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the
Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not
contemplated by its creators.
Without faith we might relapse into scientific or rational thinking,
which leads by a slippery slope toward constitutional democracy.
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