The United States Constitution: A Covenant With The People

Copy of the United States Constitution
Copy of the United States Constitution

In a state of nature there are no barriers to natural liberty. In America we recognize this as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are the three virtues that according to the U.S Constitution are rights given to us at birth.  The U.S Constitution is one of the most important social and legally binding contracts that exist between a people and their government. It can also be looked at as a covenant as well, in which the government promises to make sure that everyone receives those rights. The problem with this contract is that is doesn’t always live up to the standards set by our four founding fathers in 1774, therefore, not always keeping its covenant with the people. For years after America’s separation from Great Britain, people in this country have struggled with this document in terms of who actually benefits from the promises made in this contract. What is a covenant that lacks validity behind its words?

America has played the role of the fool, (as defined by Hobbes)  not make or not keep covenants, not against reason, when it conduced to the country’s benefit. At the time, not recognizing African Americans as citizens, and although white women did not face the same degree of oppression as African Americans did, they were not able to voice their opinions, vote, or hold meaningful occupations.

The question posed is how well is the American government doing at holding up their promises to its people? Looking at a historical context, minorities have always had to struggle with obtaining what should naturally be theirs according to the constitution. For example during World War II, over 2.5 million African American men registered for the draft despite being denied basic human rights at home, such as being able to vote. During their time in the military, they faced discrimination and segregation while risking their lives overseas for a country that referred to them as second class citizens. At the same time this was occurring civil rights leaders fought relentlessly to change circumstances for minorities in America. It was best said by Thomas Hobbes that, “covenants without the sword, are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all” or in this case a nation. The push of civil rights reform was the sword the government needed to live up to the promises of the constitution.

Graph Displaying A Wealth Gap Between Minorities
This graph displays the net worth of households between White, Hispanic and African American citizens.

Fast forwarding to the present 21st century America, this struggle of pursuing happiness is something that has become more difficult for minorities. According to the associated press, “wealth gaps between whites and minorities have grown to their widest levels in a quarter-century”. Much of this has to do with access to higher education.  In an article from CBS’ Money Watch it was noted that “Helping Americans gain more education, such as college degrees, could help narrow the gap and expand the economy, given that wages of college grads are double that of high school grads” The clear divide between socioeconomic status of minorities is making it harder for them to pursue a higher education and excel when they do receive one. For example, the U.S Census Bureau has reported that African American women have surpassed all groups in college entrance based upon race and gender, yet they make almost $7,000 less than the rest of the country year round. Divides such as this that currently exist in America remain a pressing problem for those who want to better themselves but lack the financial means to do so.  America should be doing everything in its power to make sure it is keeping its covenant with its citizens and maintaining the contract set in place by its founding fathers so that each citizen is equipped with the equal opportunity they need to obtain a pursuit of “happiness”.