The framers of our constitution were idealists for their time
It is always interesting to me when people wrap themselves in the flag and say all of their political beliefs are based on the Constitution of the United States.
That is supposed to make me think you are a patriot. What it would really mean is that you were a racist and sexist who thinks state legislatures should elect U.S. Senators.
The constitution is an amazing document, but not too many modern Americans would enjoy living under it without the 27 Amendments and numerous Supreme Court rulings to modify and clarify it.
The original text of the Constitution allowed for slave ownership and didn’t allow women to vote. It even counted non-free people as three-fifths of a person in the enumeration of a state’s population.
Even the rights that we cling to so closely we included in the first 10 amendments rather than the original document.
Many of us decry the motivations behind legislative action today. Laws are passed to protect lobbyists’ interests who help fund campaigns. Politicians take positions just to repay favors or curry favor with racial or gender based voting blocks.
Nothing is genuine.
That’s not new, by the way.
Do you really think Abraham Lincoln didn’t understand that emancipating slaves would destroy the economy of the south by taking away their free labor supply.
The Emancipation Proclamation was an important step in ending slavery but it was more important in winning the Civil War. For one thing, it only freed slaves in areas that were in active rebellion against the Union. Slaves in border states or other areas not in suppot of the South were not freed by the document.
The 13th Amendment in 1865 gave true freedom to black people in the United States. But even with freedom they couldn’t vote until 1870 – and even then it was only the men who were allowed to vote.
Women of any race weren’t given that right by the federal government until the 19th Amendment in 1920.
But during this week in 1869, Wyoming gave women the right to vote – just as black men were being allowed to vote thanks to the 15th Amendment.
But these Wyoming lawmakers weren’t freedom fighters who saw women as equals. They were lonely frontiersmen who saw women as a good way to stop being lonely on cold Wyoming nights.
In 1869 when they were voting to allow women the right to vote, there were 6,000 men and only 1,000 women in the territory. That poses a significant problem for about 5,000 men.
By allowing women the right to vote, they were hoping to get some free publicity and encourage more women to move to the territory on the verge of statehood.
In the 50 years between Wyoming’s first salvo of granting women’s suffrage to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, several states joined Wyoming in allowing women to vote. Utah gave women that right and then took it back. Colorado was the first established state to allow women to vote in 1893. Idaho followed in 1896.
It took about 25 years for women in the rest of the United States to gain the same rights.
When we take American democracy to other countries, I hope we remember that we didn’t land on Plymouth Rock in the same shape we are today.
Unfortunately for minorities, democracy is a process. It is a process we haven’t completed.
The framers of our constitution were idealists for their time. But times change and so do the ideals we strive for.
The key is to keep striving.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org