chapter  3
27 Pages

All That Gives Us a National Character

Edward S. Corwin’s treatment of the genesis and development of the constitution as a national symbol was necessarily sketchy. The Constitution began to flourish as a symbol of political maturity, it simultaneously reached full flower in public consciousness as both the cause and the symbol of national prosperity. American presidents from Washington to Lincoln all helped to nourish the Constitution as a national symbol by invoking it explicitly to justify various attitudes and actions. The term “constitutional” used as an adjective had become a convenient camouflage for moral compromise and political expediency. After more than half a century of operative existence, the Constitution was becoming a national symbol, but an ambiguous one. People were able to imbibe the principles of their new Constitution through that practice. To some degree, the apparent issue of public comprehension of the Constitution resulted from partisan assertions rather than palpable realities.