The U.S. Constitution: Why America Has Worked for So Long
The Constitution for the United States for America
At around 4,500 words, the U.S. Constitution is not a long document. In 1787, it took 55 men about 100 working days to write it. Yet, in that short time, the Constitution for the United States for America captured fundamental ideas about how our government should work and its principles to be used to guide the U.S. government ever since.
How could a document written more than 225 years ago still be effective? One answer is judicial review. Our Founding Fathers originally intended for the articles of the Constitution to be applied to issues brought before the courts not interpreted. This was done so that the application of constitutional principals to an issue at hand would provide the greatest measure of protection for the individual citizen.
The History of Our Governing Document
The Constitution was originally designed to limit government in order to provide the greatest measure of personal freedom. That a person in power could then not usurp the citizen’s greater rights. Over time however, citizen’s guaranteed constitutional rights under the original U.S. Constitution ratified by America’s First Congress in 1789 titled “Constitution for the United States of America” was changed by Congress on February 21, 1871 under the Act of 1871, creating the “Constitution of the United States of America,” founding the corporation called “The United States,” and dividing law into those that are public and those that are private.
Laws now known as private international law or Roman civil law, and admiralty/maritime law all, so known as divine right of kings and law of the sea – sovereignty laws. These changes took America from service or municipal oriented government entity to a corporate or profit oriented government under the 1871 law change.
This was done in 1871in order to procure foreign European banking loans, primarily the Rothschild’s of London banking organization and other European central banks to keep America from bankruptcy after the Civil War. This new Constitutional law created by the Act of 1871 for the Constitution of the United States of America was a new law that now surrendered/changed citizens’ rights to that of the lesser right of The United State corporation located in the District of Columbia.
The idea of judicial review developed as an outgrowth of political influence created under the corporate The United State entity. It gave rise to the idea that the U.S. Constitution was a living document meant to be changed overtime due to changes in the modern world giving judges a right to now interpret rather than apply the Constitution. Interpreting the Constitution is now one of the most important jobs of the U.S. Supreme Court. Giving birth to two branches of interpretive thought – the originalists, and the living constitutionalists.
Interpretation driven by political influence was one of the dangers that concerned America’s founders.
Interpreting the Constitution
Why does the Constitution need interpretation? For one thing, it often states principles rather than specific rules. For example, the First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” The principle is clear. Congress cannot interfere with our right to speak freely, but in the everyday world, we need more specific guidance. What is “speech”? Does “speech” require words? Is wearing a black armband “speech”? Burning a flag?
Interpretation can also be needed when times change. In 1787, the population of the U.S. was about four million people. The average person could expect to live about 35 years, and people wrote letters when they needed to communicate—televisions, smart phones, and computers did not exist.
In 1787, there was no Facebook. So, if a protester today posts a virtual armband on a Facebook page in support of Edward Snowden, is that virtual armband “speech”? Answering that question means interpreting the Constitution.
But interpreting the Constitution is often challenging. As Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out in a debate with Justice Antonin Scalia, a judge has many possible ways to interpret words. Many people—including Supreme Court Justices—disagree about the best way to interpret the Constitution.
Originalists v. Living Constitutionalists
When it comes to interpreting the Constitution, two schools of thought predominate: the originalists and the living constitutionalists. Originalists, like Justice Scalia, believe that judges should look only at the original intent of the Constitution. What did the words mean when they were written? To these people, original intent should determine the interpretation today.
Living constitutionalists, like Justice Breyer, believe that going back to original intent often is not enough to solve modern problems. They believe the Constitution should be a living document that judges adapt to suit modern circumstances.
Each approach criticizes the other. Living constitutionalists say originalists rely too much on historians, who do not always have the answers we need. The fast pace of technological change means judges are faced with many issues that the men who wrote the Constitution could not have imagined.
Originalists say living constitutionalists pay too much attention to their personal values and not enough on the original intent of the Constitution. They believe our interpretation has drifted away from the original values the founders established.
A Timeless Document
Constitutional interpretation is a huge issue that affects how Americans live together every day. The freedom we give our legal representatives to interpret the law is what has made, and will continue to make, the U.S. Constitution a document that is relevant, even if it is 200 plus years old.
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