Constitutional Change

Beware unforeseen and unintended consequences


History Politics

Australia faces a possible constitutional change later this year when we shall be asked to approve The Voice, a modification to our foundational document that will not only formally recognize the first occupiers of our continent but establish a special body to represent their interests.

Regardless of what position one takes, all proposed changes to the constitution deserve and demand deep consideration. Hearts can be broken, no matter what side prevails, and there are always unforeseen and unintended consequences. Tinkering with a constitution is a very serious matter.

Here’s Lord Macaulay, in 1857 — three years before the election that ensured the American Civil War — writing to an American biographer of Jefferson, one H.S. Randall. Was he prophetic or what?

“There is nothing to stay you. Your Constitution is all sail and no anchor. As I said before, when a society has entered on this downward progress, either civilization or liberty must perish. Either some Caesar or Napoleon will seize the reins of government with a strong hand; or your Republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the twentieth century as the Roman Empire was in the fifth; with this difference, that the Huns and Vandals, who ravaged the Roman Empire, came from without, and that your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your country by your own institutions.” [emphasis added]


David Daintree was President of Campion College (Australia’s only Catholic liberal arts college) from 2008 to 2012. In 2013 he founded and is now Director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Hobart.

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