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Some thoughts on Independence Day

This month’s Pragati carries an excerpt from B.R. Ambedkar’s concluding speech on the floor of the Constituent Assembly on achieving social and economic justice through methods provided by the Constitution of the land.  For any healthy, functioning republic, adherence to these methods is not just important, but essential.

On this Independence Day, we can reflect with some satisfaction on how far India has come in 63 years.  In the congress of developing nations, India distinguishes itself for its sustained commitment to pluralistic, democratic traditions.  At the same time however, the use of unconstitutional methods for seeking social, economic and political justice not only continues to be accepted, but also encouraged.

The degree to which these methods are employed differentiates an unhealthy republic from a healthy one.  The responsibility to respect the Constitution and its methods must be borne by both Government and its citizens.  This is a “sacred duty,” as Alexander Hamilton described it in his letter in 1794 to the Daily Advertiser, and one that provides the greatest source of security to a republic:

If it were to be asked, What is the most sacred duty, and the greatest source of security in a Republic ? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws—the first growing out of the last. It is by this, in a great degree, that the rich and the powerful are to be restrained from enterprises against the common liberty—operated upon by the influence of a general sentiment, by their interest in the principle, and by the obstacles which the habit it produces erects against innovation and encroachment.  It is by this, in a still greater degree, that caballers, intriguers, and demagogues, are prevented from climbing on the shoulders of faction to the tempting seats of usurpation and tyranny.

Were it not that it might require too long a discussion, it would not be difficult to demonstrate that a large and well-organized Republic can scarcely lose its liberty from any other cause than that of anarchy, to which a contempt of the laws is the high road.

But, without entering into so wide a field, it is sufficient to present to your view a more simple and a more obvious truth, which is this: that a sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government.

[Alexander Hamilton, Letter No. III in the American Daily Advertiser, August 28, 1794]

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3 Responses to Some thoughts on Independence Day

  1. @filter_c August 14, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    Thoughts on Independence Day & sacred duty from a 2010 blogpost. Hamilton’s arguments hold true then as they do now. http://t.co/PfJeOSK9

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