The current Republican leadership proposes that America needs a "New Contract" [i].
We already have the finest social contract/compact ever devised by mankind. The historical basis of the Republican Party is to stand firm on those fundamental founding principles. That contract is the Constitution of the United States, which evolved from the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This paragraph, from The Declaration of Independence, explains that our God-given natural rights are the fundamental basis for a free republic.
Stated as simply as possible, human beings are born into a natural state with certain inalienable rights. In order to form a more perfect union, American colonists had to relinquish some of their natural liberties and rights, and they had to assume certain duties and restrictions in order to form a union. They then lived in a state of society whereby their forfeited liberties became our collective powers that were to be exercised for the common good (weal).
This established the social contract, by mutual agreement, to live and work together in harmony for the citizens' combined benefit. The Framers defined these benefits as the citizens' right to speak freely (particularly on political matters), their right of self-defense (militia), their right to pursue commerce (property) freely, and the careful protection of their remaining natural rights by free, fair, and regularly scheduled elections.
The U.S. Constitution was adopted directly by the people of the several states (thus remedying a major defect of the "Articles of Confederation") by virtue of direct ratification without the filter of any legislative body. It was agreed to (ratified) as a binary choice by popular conventions, not by the several state legislatures.
This is the miracle of the United States of America.
The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was to form a more perfect Union.
For the first time in human history [ii], groups of people (States) freely entered into a national agreement for governing themselves. This is the contract. Each State's ratification is the last democratic event in its respective history.
Upon ratification the states automatically became part of a constitutional republic with certain limited powers. It is within those narrow, defined boundaries that the states agreed to stay.
The Constitution means what the Framers intended it to mean (unless properly amended as proscribed in Article V) on June 21st, 1788, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify it. That is the date the Constitution superseded the authority of the Articles of Confederation. As such, the Constitution is not a "living, breathing" instrument of nothingness. The words mean what they meant on the closing date, as they do in any contract.
The original contract with America became the law of the land on March 4, 1789. It is a perpetual contract freely entered into by our forefathers.
America's greatest Republican, Abraham Lincoln, confirmed his view that the Constitution is in fact a contract:
I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.
Again: If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it -- break it, so to speak -- but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?
More than 500,000 Americans gave their lives in the Civil War to preserve that proposition.
What are you going to do save it? Every breach of this contract is our (individual) responsibility.
[i] - Contracts must meet five basic requirements to be valid:
- 1. Legal Purpose - For a contract to be enforceable by law, it must be concerned with a legal purpose. The purpose must be considered a lawful pursuit.
- 2. Certainty of Terms - The terms of the contract must be sufficiently clear to permit a court to conclude that a contractual agreement was intended and to determine from the document what the terms of the agreement were. It must be written specifically and clearly.
- 3. Capacity - The parties must be legally competent (mental capacity), at least 18 years of age, and acting within the law.
- 4. Mutual agreement - A contract must constitute a meeting of the minds where both sides agree to an offer (the Constitution) and an acceptance of that offer (ratification).
- 5. Consideration - Each party to a contract receives something of value -- in this case, lack of anarchy and a stable basis to pursue life, liberty, property, and happiness.
[ii] - 1780 - Massachusetts was the first state to adopt its constitution directly by the popular convention.