The time to guard against corruption and tyranny, is before they shall have gotten hold of us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered.

—Thomas Jefferson. Notes on Virginia: Query XI, 1784.

A written constitution is adopted during a period of calm and only after due deliberation. It protects the people’s liberties by enshrining them beyond the reach of immediate passions or apathetic neglect. Those who argue for adopting constitutional amendments to deal with an emergency misunderstand the purpose of a constitution. It is precisely during an emergency, when general sanity has departed, that the safeguards in a constitution are most needed. Thus, constitutions should never be amended to meet an emergency. Instead the nation should make do until the emergency is over. Then, after the emergency has passed, and with detached consideration, the amendments can be debated and, if thought necessary, approved.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove