To the Editor,
Some complain that we should ignore foreign laws as alien to ours, a threat somehow. Quickly note however that our legal system is founded on a compendium of historical and traditional approaches to further justice.
The fathers of our country deliberated exhaustively to find a consensus means of making a country from the disparate states. The first effort of national organization, the 1781 Articles of Confederation, called for a very loose arrangement with little centralized power retained at the national level while the individual states were left largely to act independently on what the considered local matters.
Difficulties surviving the early 1781 plan quickly became obvious as the states, rather than cooperating to a greater good, began to fight amongst themselves. With competitive regional agendas the driving force, few states had at first respected the concept that centralized sharing was a valuable option. However, some began to reason that if strategically it might be a means to a more perfected country.
Deliberating again, the 1789 Constitution was the result. Not fixing everything that had been wrong in the 1781 Articles, a route had been incorporated to allow novel improvements and timely modifications as experience might suggest. A Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments, addressed some of the gaps in the Constitution. They were taken largely from the oft-ignored old British Bill of Rights, a then familiar wish list.
Amongst other remaining deficiencies of the original Constitution, tragic flaws still remained including an awkward treatment of slaves and others seen as inferior to the controlling electorate.
The New United States was not alone in seeking to improve its government. Specifically, France had experienced revolution and reformulation during the period because the aristocracy had grossly abused and demonstrated little concern for the welfare the common people.
The French ruler Napoleon viewed that American interests also did more in the area of economics than concerns for the lower echelons of society. Yet, he saw promise in our constitution in spite of this deficiency. He sought to draft a similarly constructed document for the French but with the rights of the general population better protected.
The 1804 Codex Napoleon was still a work in progress when complex negotiations regarding the Louisiana Purchase concluded. Some considered ideas for his Code included a presumption of guilt for governmental officials when confronted by citizens, rules of evidence saying that no second witness was necessary in bringing charges against the government, and that officials were to prove their own innocence with government records or lose such cases.
With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 by President Jefferson, amongst the treaties, letters, and other agreements, the rights of the French citizens of the territory were promised to be protected as full citizens of the United States including a few certain rights abstracted from the Codex Napoleon.
Today, the descendants of the territory live in all parts of our country, mixed and mingled, impractical to divide as to who met the test. Thus, by treaty the Constitution was amended in in a manner never to be simply undone.
The American Disabilities Act includes some of the French ideas: A person making a charge under the Act is to be presumed correct even if not later proven so; any information made part of the complaint even verbal from other persons cannot be dismissed as mere hearsay; a state has no immunity from actions under the ADA; cloaked actions effecting discrimination against disabled persons are forbidden, especially lying by entities and officials as forbidden by the 14th Amendment which was adopted after the Civil War; and even other transparent measures.
Such various twists from other common law tend to drive mad lawyers insane, a legal term, until the laws are realized as valid transformations. Very few parts of the 1990 ADA have been successfully attacked and most of these later easily modified by Congress in responses to court actions. Good sense and learned considerations are the spirit of the law in pursuit of fair and honest justice.
Be thankful that there is a distant French connection as well as other foreign sources in the growth of your Civil Rights. Beware of those that might yearn to trash them by willing to vest them elsewhere rather than collectively in “We the People.”