The American Constitution – Now and Then

The overall function or role of the federal government

The U.S. Constitution was framed at the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia and signed on September 17, 1787, and ratified by the nine states by June 21, 1788. A system of Federal government came into existence in 1789.

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The federal form of government is derived from the strength of the union of states. A federal government diverges from that of confederation where central authority acts directly upon states as well as upon individuals. Sovereignty is bifurcated between central government [federal] and state.

The federal government is entrusted with key powers as regard external affairs, coinage, commerce, military, etc. At the same juncture, retention of jurisdiction over local events is attuned with the federal setup and makes recognition for local sentiments. One of the major disadvantages of a federal form of government is the division of power since the urge for unity among the federal states may clash with their urge for autonomy.

The allocation of power between federal and state governments is usually achieved through a written constitution. In America, the roles and jurisdictions of states have been well defined and the roles of the federal government are also clearly demarcated to administer the nation smoothly. The American constitution describes the limitations of the federal government and safeguards the natural rights of the citizens. (The Columbia Encyclopedia N/A).

The structure of the government like Federalism, the Presidential system, etc

The executive branch of the U.S.A is headed by the President and the Supreme Court of the U.S.A. is represented as the supreme authority for the judiciary and the Congress represented the supreme authority of the legislative branch and is further subdivided into two parts as Senate and the House of Representatives.

All the states were awarded the right to control certain areas within their borders and could exercise such rights as long as they do not hinder the rights of other states or the federal government. [Barlow, J, et al, 1988] The relationship between the states is also explained in the constitution. For instance, if a criminal escapes to New York after having committed a crime in California, if he has been detained in New York, he has to be returned to California where he committed a crime if California requested it. Constitution also explains the Supremacy and ratification of the constitution, National debts, Federal-state relations, how an amendment to the constitution is to be carried out. [L.Wells et al, 10].

The way in which the federal government does or does not guarantee civil rights and liberties.

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The specialty of the American constitution is that the founding fathers of the constitution stipulated that amendments to the constitution can be made either as add-ons or changes to the original text. Thus, the founding fathers of the constitution regarded the Bill of right’s concept mainly to safeguard and preserve the rights of the future citizens of the U.S.A. It is the bill of rights that usher freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to self-defense, etc. An American citizen should owe to the founding fathers of the constitution for granting everyone rights that are irretrievable

The foundation of the American constitution is very strong and has not undergone many changes since it was introduced. The constitution is a great invention because of its contemporary usage and is still in its original form.

The American constitution describes the limitations of the federal government and safeguards the natural rights of the citizens. Bill of rights offers the right to speech, right to profess any religion, right to bear arms, safeguarding against irrational search and seizures, right to due process and equal protection, etc. Bill of Rights was altered by the amendments to the American constitution through the initial ten amendments and it guaranteed important rights to every citizen.

Abraham Lincoln had suspended the constitutional rights many times during the civil war which denied fundamental rights such as the approach to court with Habeas Corpus petition. Likewise, during Red Scare in 1919, civil rights were suspended due to series of terrorist bombings. It is a misfortune that an act like the USA Patriot Act has been enacted in America which offers sweeping powers to the American government which has undermined and bypassed the role of the Courts in major areas like attorney-client rights, eavesdropping, and arresting any suspect without a court order. The intent of the American constitution is that no one branch should be entrusted with exclusive power and there should be enough checks and balances among branches of government.

However, taking into account the vast changes in the global scenario, the bill of rights should be amended to suit the changing climate like economic globalization, advancement in health care, development in intellectual property rights, and new crimes like terrorism. Further, the amendment should be made on the right to bear arms to restrict scrupulous shooting in public places, to curb the power of the government to authorize unreasonable searches and seizures and to impose a ban on the death penalty.

To me, Thomas Jefferson is correct that American the Constitution should be rewritten every few years to represent the generation’s values. It is to be remembered when the Constitution was written, the Framers had no way of knowing what challenges the future may bring like human cloning, abortion, death penalty, gun control, etc. Due to globalization and change in the economy, it is the need of the hour for the Americans to introduce serious changes in the bill of rights and in the American constitution to tailor the same to make fit for our current times. (Marien 56).

U.S Constitution then U.S Constitution now
1. States were empowered to frame their own rules for age for voting and other qualifications 14thAmendment empowers all men of 21 to be eligible to vote. 15thAmendment ensured that voting for all races. The 19thConstitutional amendment granted voting rights for women. 26thAmendment has lowered the voting age to 18 for all elections.
2. Congress vested with vast powers The first eight amendments limit the power of Congress and Congress cannot intrude with the Bill of rights.
3. Bill of rights grants certain rights like no one can be arrested without a warrant. Further, an accused should be allowed to engage a counsel before deposing anything. Police should inform the accused of his basic rights before getting any written statement from him which is known as ‘Miranda rights.’ USA Patriot Act has been enacted in America which offers sweeping powers to the American government which has undermined and bypassed the role of the Courts in major areas like attorney-client rights, eavesdropping, and arresting any suspect without a court order
4. The main intention of the constitution framers is to accord the role of Commander-in-Chief to President of U.S.A. is to sanction power to President to prevent or initiate attacks against, or by the United States. Thus, the President of America has been assigned with responsibility for leading the armed forces of the U.S.A. in case of any emergency. There are checks and balances under the American constitution that restrict the President’s power to wage war without the approval of Congress. A special Act is known as “The War Powers Act of 1973 ” was enacted to address the issue especially limiting the U.S. President’s power to wage war. The main aim of the Act is to engage the President and Congress in the decision-making process which may ultimately force the United States into hostilities. Without the concrete Congressional approval, the President of the United States lacks the power to wage war beyond 60 days.
5. The foundation of the American constitution is very strong and has not undergone many changes since it was introduced. The constitution is a great invention because of its contemporary usage and is still in its original form. George Washington, founding father of the American constitution, christened the constitution as ‘supreme law of the land’ since no law may be enacted that challenges its basic principles. The innovations that the founding fathers of the constitution introduced amendments to the constitution that can be made either as add-ons or changes to the original text. Thus, the founding fathers of the constitution regarded the Bill of right’s concept mainly to safeguard and preserve the rights of the future citizens of the U.S.A. It is the bill of rights that usher freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to self-defense, etc. An American citizen should owe to the founding fathers of the constitution for granting everyone rights that are irretrievable and can be taken as advantageous on a daily basis.

Works Cited

Federal Government.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2007.

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L.Wells, Michael, and Thomas A. Eaton. Constitutional Remedies: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

Marien, Michael. “A New Bill of Rights for Americans: The Futurist. 2008: 56+.

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