The US constitution was written way back in 1787. After one year, 9 out of the original thirteen states ratified the document. According to the American constitution society, the US has the longest-surviving written constitution in the whole world.
However, this does not imply that the constitution has remained the same over time. The intention of the founding fathers was for the document to be flexible. With this in place, it would easily meet the changing circumstances and needs of the country.
Virginia Delegate Edmund Randolph was among the five men who were tasked with drafting this constitution. According to him, the primary goal of the constitution was just inserting the essential principles.
If not, the government operations would be clogged by rendering the provisions unalterable and permanent. The provisions should be accommodated to events and times.
The Bill of Rights was adopted way back in 1791. From that time, Congress has only passed 23 additional amendments to the American constitution. The states have only been able to ratify seventeen of them.
Apart from that, several changes in the legal and political system of America have come through the interpretation of the current laws by the judiciary. This happens instead of having the legislative branch adding new ones. Also, you can learn more about this by following the American constitution society.
The Rights of Americans Were Individually Protected
One of the earliest criticisms of the American constitution is the fact that it did not do much in order to protect individual rights against infringement from the new central government of the nation. To get a remedy to this, James Madison crafted a list of citizens’ rights with immediate effect. The federal government didn’t have the power of taking away these rights.
The inclusions in the Bill of Rights were freedom of speech, religion, and even the press. There was also the right of bearing arms, freedom from unreasonable seizures and searches, and the right to a fair trial. You can find more details about this in the American constitution society.
How Presidents, VPs, and Senators are elected in America
According to the constitution, the runner-up in the American presidential election automatically became the vice president. This system was about to sparkle up a constitutional crisis in the country in 1800. At this time, Thomas Jefferson, and Aaron Burr, who was his running mate got an equal number of electoral votes. The 12th amendment was ratified in 1804 and mandated electors to vote separately for the vice president and the president.
After a period of more than one century, the seventeenth Amendment also changed the process of electing the U.S. Senate. It gave the American people, and not the state legislatures, the right of electing senators. These details are clearly explained by the American constitution society.
Expanding the Role of the Supreme Court
In comparison to how it treated the legislative and executive branches of the government, the constitution was relatively vague on the role of the judicial branch and the Supreme Court. It left its organization largely in the hands of congress.
John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the nation, is the one who established the power of the court. He did so by asserting the right of the court to declare the acts of congress that were unconstitutional. The judicial department emphatically has the duty of stating what the law is. Marshal wrote this in a landmark case that was dubbed Marbury v. Madison of 1803.
From that time, the court has continued to take increasingly active responsibility of interpreting the laws that are made and the actions that the other two branches take. It has to make sure that both of them are abiding by the constitution.
Balancing Power Sloped From States to the Federal Government
At the time of writing the constitution, the individual state governments had more power than the central government of the nation. The power balance changed over the years quickly as the federal government continued to expand while taking an increasingly dominant role.
Federalism now became the land law courtesy of the decisions of the Supreme Court such as the McCulloch v. Maryland of 1823. This affirmed the right of the federal government to take proper and necessary actions that meet the nation’s urgent needs.
The debate on the rights of the state continued up to and even beyond the period of the Civil War. At this time, the dawn of Reconstruction and the Union of victory marked the start of the new federal power expansion.
In 1913, there was the passage of the 16th amendment which gave the government of the day the power of collecting income tax. These changes reversed the prohibition against a direct tax effectively that is included in Article One of the Constitution.
Individuals Apart From the White Men Got the Right of Voting
Black men started voting after the civil war in 1867. There were three reconstruction amendments that identified men as being equal. The 13th Amendment abolished the whole issue of slavery in America. The 14th amendment did extend that status of citizenship to African Americans. This contradicted the 1857 ruling of the Supreme Court in Dred Scott v. Sandford.
The 15th amendment gave black men the right to vote. However, the Southern States found different ways of restricting these rights sooner than later. In 1920, after ratifying the 19th amendment, all American women received voting rights for the very first time. Carrie Chapman Catt, the suffrage leader, declared memorably that getting the word male out of the constitution cost the nation 52 years of the pause-less campaign.
Expansion of the Power of the Executive Branch
From the 19th century and all the way to the 20th century, the dominant branch of the government was congress. This was as per the intention of the framers of the constitution. Some of the early presidents like Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Jackson claimed higher power for themselves, especially during wartime.
The turning point was marked by the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt according to the American Constitution Society. Even though there was the passing of the 22nd amendment that limited future presidents to be in office for only two terms, there was a trend of the growing power of the presidency that did not show any signs of coming down.
According to the American constitution society, the constitution has been amended several times from the time it was written. As of now, corporations are being treated just like individuals. All these amendments were designed to help the constitution address the needs of people in a better way. The supreme court now recognized corporations as persons. It is good to understand all these amendments so that you can tell how the constitution has transitioned over time.