Does the Constitution Still Matter?

People who ask this question usually want to start a fight or are pathetically ignorant. Our Constitution emerged 225 years ago today. It matters as long as the United States exists. Yet Americans still argue about it, file lawsuits about it, claim to love it, and swear to uphold it. They accuse each other of violating it. But most have never READ IT. So let’s look at it.

The founders’ first attempt at creating a government in 1781, the Articles of Confederation, didn’t work very well. So six years later, they tried again and gave us the United States Constitution.

Fifty-five farmers and businessmen, serving as Constitutional Convention delegates, contributed their ideas. James Madison and Gouverneur Morris wrote most of the text, consisting of 4,400 words. The founders didn’t want to write an intricate daily operating manual. The Constitution is an outline for our government. Madison and Morris deliberately included some very general language.

The Constitution contains three parts – the Preamble, the Articles, and the Amendments.

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Peter Sperry

Very good post. More people should pay attention to Article V. A great deal of judicial activism and controversy could be avoided if greater efforts were made to amend the Constitution when needed rather than seek ways around it. As you point out the original is a short document providing limited enumerated authority to the federal government and reserving all other rights and authority to the people or the states. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, enacted in the wake of the Civil War, established the primacy of the federal government over the state governments with regard to individual rights while leaving them largely in control of internal domestic affairs and local government. Subsequent amendments have been largely managerial. Much of the expansionist view of the Constitution hinges on a believe the Preamble conveys authority for the Federal government to take any neccessary actions to achive the stated objectives. The strict contructionalist view maintains the Preamble merely states objectives but does not convey authority and the Federal government is limited to those powers explicitly stated in the other articles. Both views recognize the constitutionality of amendments which could expand or contract federal authority. Strict constuctionalists believe this is the only appropriate means of doing so. Expansionists believe the amendment process can be augmented by the Judicial branch through Supreme Court decisions. Consequently, much of the current controversies addressed by the court revolve around whether changes to the Constitution should be publicly debated by Congress and presented to the nation for approval or rejection through the ratification process or simply made up by the courts based on whatever legal theory happens to prevail at the time.