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

U.S. CONSTITUTION (Spring, 1987)

Continuing our reflections on the United States Constitution in this its bicentennial year, I would like to share with you some of the ideas which influenced the framers of our Constitution, those eighteenth-century Englishmen/Americans.

The prevailing concepts of law took note of the long struggle in England to establish the supremacy of law over the arbitrary power of the crown. The issues involved were intensely practical, but behind the conflict over specific rights an earnest theological and philosophical discussion took place over the very nature of law. However, while the British may have accepted their largely unwritten constitution, Americans were early habituated to having things in writing.

Interestingly enough, a Frenchman, Baron de Montesquieu, undertook to outline the nature of the British constitution. He described the British government which, one might say, in the absence of a written document, was the constitution, as being composed of three branches -- the executive, legislative and judicial. With extravagant praise for the system, he argued that in order for a government to insure the happiness of its subjects it was necessary that the people be unafraid. AWhen the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws to execute them in a tyrannical manner.@ Again there would be an end of everything, were the same man, or the same body whether of nobles or of the people. to exercise those three powers, that of enacting the laws. that of executing the public resolutions, and that of judging the crimes or differences of individuals. By separating and keeping separate through the vigilance of the citizens, the three great branches of government, they would act as a check upon each other and so preserve the liberties of the people." Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Law fixed the notion of the separation of powers in the minds of all literate and liberal spirits and it made the British government-constitution the archetype of this principle.

Most important, this work was available to the American colonists who had already enjoyed its benefits and would soon make use of it in a way the Mother Country could hardly have anticipated.

Thus, we see how the Constitution was an amalgam of ideas and philosophies, both Continental and American. as well as a product of its times and the experiences of its framers.