Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Constitution of the United States

Even though we declared ourselves independent in 1776, we did not have our Constitution until 1787. During that time the weak Articles of Confederation held our country together, which allowed  individual states a wide latitude in their own governance.  When it came time to write a new more unifying Consitution, many people (such as Madison and Hamilton) realized that we needed a stronger federal government and their convictions earned them the appellation "Federalists".  Opposing the Federalists were the "Republicans", who favored a weaker central government with more states rights.

The Constitution seems to always be in the news. A familiar cry from belligerent talk show guests is for us to "read the Constitution". OK, I will. Of course that doesn't mean I can deduce what the Founding Fathers meant in the Second Amendment by the right to bear arms.  The newest buzz is over the Fourteenth Amendment which states that anyone "born" in the USA is a United States citizen. It was designed to complement the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. However, it is now thought to be antiquated since illegal aliens giving birth in the US automatically give their children US citizen status.  I could see an amendment to this, since other countries such as the UK don't allow this.  Also, I think we may also be able to allow citizens not born in the US to become president. 

Most of the original Constitution lays the groundwork for the new government: qualification for senators and representatives, term lengths, the judicial systems, etc. It is all interesting and I probably read it before when I was twelve. However, you do gain a better appreciation for the ingenuity of the architects of this document after a certain age.

Not surprisingly there is no mention anywhere of the President of the United States being elected by the popular vote. Of course everyone is aware of this now, but it is comforting to see that I wasn't lied to back in 2000. One interesting note is that the president can pardon ANY crime (e.g. murder, treason) except impeachment!  Since Nixon was not impeached he could be pardoned - but Bill Clinton who didn't commit any crimes (?) cannot be.

Reading the Amendments I felt like there was some missing. I reached twenty-four, but there are in fact twenty-six Amendments. I then realized that this edition of the GBWW I am reading is from 1952. The Constitution, as they say, is a living document, and has moved on.

1 comment:

  1. You might find the following interesting reading -

    'The RECORDS of the FEDERAL CONVENTION of 1787' Volume II edited by Max Farrand.

    Especially the footnote on page 150 which reads -

    'Document V in Wilson's handwriting was found among the Wilson Papers. It appears to be the beginning of a draft with an outline of the continuation. Parts in parentheses were crossed out in the original.'