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Former President Harry S. Truman Speaks on Liberty and Justice in America, Post number 3 of 6

Liberty and justice under the rule of law are primary American principles. Our struggle to understand and execute them in our country never stops.

A beautiful and update restatement of how our Democracy should work comes from Former President, Harry S. Truman, in a little known address he made to Missouri Bar enrollees almost 60 years ago. This blog will serialize his remarks. (Quoted as it was printed in the June 1958 and November 2014 issues of the Journal of the Missouri Bar.)

"You can read about the Constitution, and you can study it in books, but the Constitution in not merely a matter of words. The Constitution is a living force - and it is a growing thing.

The Constitution belongs to no one group of people and to no single branch of the government. We acknowledge our judges as the interpreters of the Constitution, but our Executive branch and our Legislative branch alike operate within its framework and must apply it and its principles in all they do.

The Constitution expresses an idea that belongs to the people - the idea of the free man. What this idea means may vary from time to time. There was a time when people believed the Constitution meant that men could not be prevented from exploiting child labor or paying sweatshop wages. We no longer believe these things. We have discovered that the Constitution does not prevent us from correcting social injustice, or advancing the general welfare.

As we look toward the future, we must be sure that what we honor and venerate in these documents is not their words alone, but the ideas of liberty which they express.

We have treated these documents themselves with the utmost respect. We have used every device that modern science has invented to protect and preserve them. But we must face the fact that all this pomp and circumstance could be the exact opposite of what we intend. If the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were enshrined in the Archives Building, but no where else, they would be dead. They would be just so many papers in a glass case. "

The speech will continue next week in post number 4 of 6. The full text of the speech is available on my website under the articles tab.

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