A blupete Essay

The Constitution of a Country, Part 2 to blupete's Essay
"A Country's Constitution"

A constitution is a settled arrangement by which a country's parts or elements, within a geographical district, combine themselves because of some common traits or particular features of mind or character of those in the combined group (a country) and which distinguishes it from other combined groups (other countries). It is not so much that a constitution of a country determines its nature and character; but, rather, that a constitution reflects a country's nature and character. It is a mode in which a state is constituted or organized, and, by which, its physical nature or character is determined and which ultimately determines a country's healthiness, strength and vitality. The OED defines a constitution as the "system or body of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, or body politic is constituted and governed." In the case of a written Constitution, the name is sometimes applied to the document embodying it. In either case it is assumed or specifically provided that the constitution is more fundamental than any particular law, and contains the principles with which all legislation must be in harmony.

Most everything that goes into the makeup of a constitution (and the traits and character of one constitution, when compared with others, will be as varied as the people it is intended it should govern) can come, and go, and be modified in degree; but, as sine qua non, it governs all who occupy a geographical area, a country. The OED defines a country as a "tract or district ... inhabited by people of the same race, dialect, occupation, etc." The desire to be part of a group likely springs, naturally and deep from within each one of us, from a fundamental need for a situation, controlled just enough, so as to allow each within the group to be able to get on with life, without being molested. Threats to a person's security can come both from within the group and from without the group. The group, particularly if it is to successfully deal with threats from without, must organize itself, by means of patriotic feelings, into a large and powerful group, which, sets for itself, and which is generally recognized by all, both from within and from without, a geographically defined area.

A country is more than a collection of people with patriotic feelings. A country is kinsfolk, or kindred. A country is the friendly feelings to which such kindred gives birth. A country is the feeling of confidence that people have when sharing similar habits and customs. A country, says Ernest Renan, a nineteenth Century French writer, is "the historic consequence of a series of facts converging towards the same point."

"At all times such formations have been guided by the urge of some deep-seated reason. ... But what, then, is a nation? Why is Holland a nation, while Hanover and the Grand Duchy of Parma are not? ... Why is Switzerland, with its three languages, its two religions and three or four races, a nation, when Tuscany, for example, which is so homogeneous, is not? Why is Austria a state and not a nation? In what does the principle of nations differ from that of races? ...
Man is the slave neither of his race, nor his language, nor his religion, nor of the windings of his rivers and mountain ranges. That moral consciousness which we call a nation is created by a great assemblage of men with warm hearts and healthy minds ...
What makes populations fuse, to come together? History shows that it is not race. Search the history books, one will not find where a nation has been founded on race. One will find where a race runs through numerous nations; and a nation may consists of numerous races. Charlemagne reconstructed in his own way what Rome had already built, viz., a single empire composed of the most diverse races.
Ethnographic considerations have, therefore, played no part in the formation of modern nations. France is Celtic, Iberic and Germanic. Germany is Germanic, Celtic and Slav. Italy is the country in which ethnography finds its greatest difficulties. Here Gauls, Etruscans, Pelasgians and Greeks are crossed in an unintelligible medley. The British Isles, taken as a whole, exhibit a mixture of Celtic and Germanic blood, the proportions of which are particularly difficult to define.
The truth is that no race is pure, and that to base politics on ethnographic analysis is tantamount to basing it on chimera. The noblest countries, England, France and Italy, are those where breeds are most mixed."
We instinctively take language as a badge of nationality; and, as a rule, language is such a badge; as Renan observed, a common language invites union, without, however, compelling it.
"The political importance ascribed to languages comes from regarding them as tokens of race. Nothing could be more unsound. In Prussia, where nothing but German is now spoken, Russian was spoken a few centuries ago; in Wales, English is spoken; in Gaul and Spain, the original speech of Alba Longa; in Egypt, Arabic; and we could cite any number of other examples."
Though language is not a certain test, those who speak the same language, within a territory that has borders set and easily defined geographically, usually belong to one nation. The badge of language, however, in our modern world, due to the world wide spread of English, is no longer the distinctive marker as it once was. Any number of countries exist in the modern world of today, which, while they may speak a similar language, are quite distinctive in a number of ways. What is seen in our modern world, particularly where political borders have been imposed, are nations, which, often as not, speak more than one language.6

So, we take our first notion of what a constitution is from the dictionary, "to settle, fix, or enact; to establish; to form or compose: to make up; to make a thing what it is." A constitution is what a country is. It is not, -- and certainly not in any country with British traditions such as Canada -- to be found in any one document. And while the essentials may well be written up in one document, no one document can be comprehensive in describing every tradition and all the cultural aspects of a country's makeup. It is for this reason, that written constitutions are expected to be short; they need only stick to the essentials. Constitutions should settle and fix values such as life and liberty; and, critically, the form of government it elects for itself.

Government, my trusty dictionary tells me: "regulation; control; restraint; the exercise of authority; direction and restraint exercised over the actions of men in communities, societies, or states; the administration of public affairs; the system of policy in a state; the mode or system according to which the sovereign powers of a nation, the legislative, executive, and judicial powers, are vested and exercised; ... etc. etc." Nowhere, in this dictionary of mine, does it say that government is a biological identity; its not a person, or anything else that is capable of individualistic thought; its a theoretical concept.

"Government has no rights; it is a delegation from several individuals for the purpose of securing their own rights." (Shelley, 1812.)
I have written on the subject of government, elsewhere; its purpose; its power; and its limitation. Here I simply observe that there are two fundamental characteristics of our constitution -- the system of self-government and the rule of law.7 I shall next briefly touch upon the subjects of the rule of law and then pass on to certain constitutional forms and those particular forms adopted by the United States and Canada.


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Peter Landry

2011 (2019)