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This article were originally published as the Editor's page in The Beverly Hills Bar Journal, during Mr. Shacter's tenure.

BICENTENNIAL OF THE CONSTITUTION (Winter, 1986-87)

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
(Preamble, United States Constitution)

These famous words, known to every school child in America, are this year finding their way onto popular magazine covers and elsewhere in commemoration of the bicentennial of our Constitution. As is altogether fitting, this bicentennial will not likely be celebrated with fireworks and parades, but rather with special publications and media programming, public discussion and reflection, and wide distribution of the document itself.

Wherein lies the greatness of this particular constitution? Many differing opinions abound. I believe that its success is attributable to its simplicity and its Framers' clear grasp of what they wanted to do. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead well said:

"The men who founded your republic had an uncommonly clear grasp of the general ideas that they wanted to put in here, then left the working out of the details to later interpreters, which has been, on the whole, remarkably successful. I know of only three times in the Western world when statesmen consciously took control of historic destinies: Periclean Athens, Rome under Augustus, and the founding of your American republic."

As lawyers, we each relate to the Constitution on many levels. Some of us are in daily routine contact with its provisions, such as patent law, immigration, search and seizure, interstate commerce, federal courts and the like. Others recall studying the Constitution in high school and/or college and constitutional law in law school, and our impressions so gathered. Beyond that, as citizens, we see and hear about the current interpretations of the Constitution as the news media reports significant court decisions.

Who were those men to whom we commonly refer as the "Framers" of the Constitution, who spent May through September of 1787 at this task for a country with then a population of fewer than four million?

According to Professor Morison:

"At Philadelphia twelve states (Rhode Island having declined the invitation) were represented by 55 delegates. Two were college presidents; three were or had been professors; 26 others were college graduates. Four delegates had read law at the Inns of Court in London; nine were foreign born. Twenty-eight had served in Congress, and most of the others in state legislatures. The most surprising thing about the delegates is their youth. Five were under 30 years old. Alexander Hamilton was 32; in the next oldest group James Madison, Governor Morris and Edmund Randolph were within a year of 35. Wilson, Luther Martin, Oliver Ellsworth and William Patterson were between 41 and 45. General Washington was now 55, the same age as Dickinson and Wythe. Only four members had reached or passed the age of 60; and Benjamin Franklin at 81, was the oldest member by 15 years. Practically every American who had useful ideas on political science was there except John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on foreign missions, and John Jay, busy with the foreign relations of the Confederation. Jefferson contributed indirectly by shipping to Madison and Wythe from Paris sets of Polybius and other ancient publicists who discoursed on the theory of "mixed government" on which the Constitution was based. The political literature of Greece and Rome was a positive and quickening influence on the Convention debates."

Thus, aside from its longevity, our Constitution was a product of both classical thought concerning government and the best minds of the country truly something of which we can all be proud.

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