America’s Oldest Blueprint: The U.S. Constitution
In regards to the interpretation of the United States Constitution, President Woodrow Wilson once said, “The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straightjacket. In its elasticity lies chief greatness”. After the document’s ratification in 1788, controversies arose as to how the document should be interpreted in regards to its malleability. President Wilson, along with many others, believed that the Constitution was simply a blueprint that could be molded by the American government to solve present day issues.
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On the other hand, others, such as Thomas Jefferson, believed that the document should be followed word for word, and that the government could only do what was blatantly stated in the Constitution1. The United States Constitution is an overall elastic document that can be loosely interpreted and revised in order to meet the requirements of a changing nation. The Constitution was created with the power to propose amendments in order to establish a government that would be able to endure over time and meet the needs of the general welfare2.
Article Five of the Constitution reads, “The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments”. This article states that amendments may be proposed by two-thirds of the legislature and then ratified with three-fourths consent in order to change the constitution, allowing the national government to be able to deal with modern issues.
For example, the Thirteenth Amendment helped to subdue the 1860’s slavery feud after the Civil War between the North and South by abolishing slavery3. Without the ability to amend the constitution and abolish slavery, the national government would not have had the power to end the disagreement between the states, resulting in a chasm between the North and South. Through the Amendment process, the Constitution remains flexible enough to be able to adapt to meet the needs of the modern nation and any future issues. On the other hand, one could easily defend that the U. S.
Constitution is a restrictive document in terms of its rigorous amendment process. For instance, the Equal Rights Amendment of 1923 failed to gain ratification even after it passed both houses of Congress because it missed its ratification date due to the lengthy amendment process, restricting the national government from the revision necessary to meet the needs of the people4. The proposed amendment stated that, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”5, and reasoned that both men and women should be seen as equals.
During a time of unjust inequality between men and women, the Equal Rights Amendment would have proved beneficial to the nation had it not missed its ratification date. Although the U. S. Constitution could be seen as a restrictive document in regards to its amendment process, it has remained the foundation of American government for over two hundred years due to its systematic elasticity. The powers delegated by the Necessary and Proper Clause enables the national government to exercise implied powers that are necessary when governing a nation.
At the end of Section 8 of Article I of the U. S. Constitution, which enumerates the powers of Congress, the following clause appears: “The Congress shall have Power …to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof”. Through this clause, Congress is able to exercise implied powers, or powers that are authorized by a document but are not stated.
Implied powers allow the national government liberties when meeting the necessities of a nation, such as the ability to set up banks or regulate interstate commerce, even though the Constitution did not directly state that the government could do so6. Without implied powers allowing the government to form a national bank, limited control would be maintained over the nation’s commerce, which would prove to be detrimental to the United State’s economy.
Implied powers, through the Necessary and Proper Clause, ensure that the Constitution remains flexible when managing a changing nation. The malleability of the United States Constitution allows for changes in government in order to meet the needs of current and future generations. States ex- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him”7.
He alludes to the idea that, without the ability to change the government, the innovations and incentives that are necessary for the improvement of society will not transpire. Through implied powers and its ability to amend itself, the Constitution has ensured change and proved invaluable when maintaining government stability in an ever-changing nation. Works Cited 1 Sparknote Editors. “SparkNote on Thomas Jefferson. ” SparkNotes. SparkNotes LLC, 2005. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www. parknotes. com/? biography/? jefferson/? terms. html>. 2 Danzer, Gerald A. , et al. “Purposes of the Constitution. ” The Americans. N. p. : McDougal Littell, 2005. 152 – 53. Print. 3 “Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. ” Wikipedia. N. p. , 5 Oct. 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2011. <http://en. wikipedia. org/? wiki/? Thirteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution>. 4 Mount, Steve. “The Failed Amendments. ” USConstitution. N. p. , 24 Jan. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. lt;http://www. usconstitution. net/? constamfail. html>. 5 “The Equal Rights Amendment. ” Equal Rights Amendment. N. p. , n. d. Web. 3 Nov. 2011. <http://www. equalrightsamendment. org/>. 6 “Necessary and Proper Clause. ” Wikipedia. N. p. , 2 Nov. 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2011. <http://en. wikipedia. org/? wiki/? Necessary_and_Proper_Clause>. 7 “Quotations about Change. ” The Quote Garden. N. p. , 11 May 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2011. <http://www. quotegarden. com/? change. html>.