Monday, August 17, 2015
Does Modern Edition of Constitution Help Support or Destroy The Historical Document?
The United States Constitution is the most significant document in the free world. This country has led the way for all modern democracies, with its freedoms, three-branch government, and open election system. Though not perfect, the document has been debated over and reinterpreted by citizens, all branches of government, and the media. But it’s what glues the country together and since 1787 has been the law of the land. Now a new book potentially will either help people understand and appreciate this historic but very relevant document or it will bastardize it and lead to confusion over just what the legal intention of the document should be.
The book in question is called The Constitution of the United States of America: Modern Edition; Rearranged and Edited for Ease of Reading.
So what does this book do? It:
*Rearranges the order of the document and subsequent Amendments
*Cleans up 18th century spellings and capitalizations
*Fixes excessive and confusing punctuation
*Neatens up some of the old grammar
*Issues different headings
*Provides definitions for certain words and phrases
Though one would think the pros outweigh the cons, as old writings need to be almost translated into modern language, tinkering with a document like the Constitution is too dangerous. Because the document is constantly being reinterpreted by the Supreme Court, we can’t risk confusion even while seeking to make things clearer.
The Bible, the dictionary, and other major books have undergone renovations over the years and we seemingly survived but the Constitution needs to be reserved – not edited.
However, as evidenced by the book’s message to the reader, the book feels it’s made worthwhile changes that won’t negatively impact the integrity of the document. It says:
“The improved readability of the modern edition has been achieved without harm to the Constitution’s often-praised eloquence. The majestic language of the Founding Fathers has not been simplified or paraphrased; it has only been modernized in the few cases where it departs sharply from current usage.
“The editorial improvements have likewise done no harm to the accuracy of the text. None of the changes affect the meaning of the Constitution, as revealed by its language and the Supreme Court decisions and political usages that have interpreted and applied it, except to make the meaning more clear.
“While the Modern Edition focuses attention on today’s Constitution, it can also aid the historical study of the document. In “The Constitution of the Past,” the repealed and obsolete provisions are sorted into groups showing major stages, crises, and problems in the nation’s history: the procedures for starting the new government after adoption of the Constitution, the establishment of slavery in the supreme law of the land, the adoption and repeal of Prohibition, and others. The historical forces and events that have made some clauses obsolete are explained by footnotes.
“The Modern Edition provides, for the first time in two centuries, the text of the Constitution in a form that is well organized and free of antiquated literary and typographical features. This edition makes the study of the Constitution less difficult and more rewarding for students, citizens—everyone.”
Interestingly, when you look at the 39 men who signed the Constitution, one came from New York. Each of the 13 original states had at least two representatives sign on, and Pennsylvania, led by Benjamin Franklin, had eight. Delaware, with five, had the second most.
The Constitutional Convention took place on September 17, 1787 – 11 years after we declared ourselves a free nation in 1776. It was ratified in 1788 and the Bill of Rights, which comprised of the first 10 amendments, came about in 1791. So what happened in those early years of our country’s development, leading up to 1791, when things like a free press were not necessarily protected by law the way the Constitution has? The Articles of Confederation existed, but the Constitution was a document that needed to be created.
Let’s conclude with a reprinting of the most important part of the Constitution – The First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
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