In the last quarter of the 18th Century, no nation in the world was governed with separated and divided powers providing checks and balances on the exercise of authority by those who governed. A first step toward such a result was taken with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which was followed by the Constitution drafted in Philadelphia in 1787; in 1791 the Bill of Rights was added. Each had antecedents back to the Magna Carta and beyond.
The work of 55 men in Philadelphia in 1787 was another step toward ending the concept of the divine right of kings. In place of the absolutism of monarchy the freedoms flowing from this document created a land of opportunities. Ever since then discouraged and oppressed people from every part of the world have made their way to our shores; there were others too--educated, affluent, seeking a new life and new freedoms in a new land.
This is the meaning of our Constitution.
This pocket constitution is one of a new series issued by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. The principal goal of the Commission is to stimulate an appreciation and understanding of our national heritage--a history and civics lesson for all of us. This lesson cannot be learned without first reading and grasping the meaning of this remarkable document--the first of its kind in all human history.
Warren S Burger
Chairman, Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution
Chief Justice of the United States, 1969-1986
About the only part with which I'd disagree with Burger is the line "freedoms flowing from this document created a land of opportunities". This line implies that freedom comes from government versus as a natural right. Individuals are born free and freely enter into a social contract (constitution) to protect their freedoms.
Limbaugh reviewing Daniel Hannan book "How We Invented Freedom" summarizes the difference between rights originating from the individual versus rights coming from the state:
In the United States, we as citizens presume that everything is legal until a law is written making it illegal. It's something that we're taught, but it's also something that we just assume. So important is freedom to us, and so adequately, precisely defined and spelled out in our founding documents, all men are created equal, endowed by their creator. So we're born free, we are born yearning to be free. That's the natural spirit, the natural human spirit, and we just assume everything's legal until there's a law saying it isn't.
But you go to Europe and many other parts around the world, and the presumption is just the opposite. It is that everything is illegal until there's a law making it legal.