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America's Flawed Constitution

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America's Flawed Constitution

Right from the beginning of it’s creation the constitution of the United States has been a shaky document. The very basis for it being there was in fact illegal.

The story of American politics starts with the Declaration of Independence. This document was brilliantly written by Thomas Jefferson and compacted all of the great ideas of enlightenment into one short easy to read paper. The declaration stated all of the ideals the new American nation would strive for. A constitution was needed as a way in which to fulfill those goals. The articles of confederacy were created as that constitution. However, they were weak, because no state wanted to give away any of their powers, and so the articles eventually failed. That is when the modern day constitution was starting to form.

The Articles of Confederacy stated that in order to change any part of the document all thirteen states must agree to the change. Therefor a meeting was called so that they could amend the failing articles. However, representatives from two of the states did not show up. Even though not all states were represented the meeting started and the first vote was to totally throw away the Articles of Confederacy. The constitution wasn’t formed yet and it was already a flawed document. Because not all states were represented when the articles required it, the constitution was an illegal document.

The delegates working on the constitution new that they needed a stronger document, because the articles proved too weak, but it still needed to please all of the states. This was impossible. So what ended up happening was the new ducocument became more and more vague. The only way to create a document that would pass was to make a document which didn’t really solve any problems but make each state believe that there problems would be fixed. This was accomplished by making it so that it was too vague to offend anybody but you could read into it. This made for a document that would be seriously flawed because people would be able to read into it too much. It could not work.

The Constitution of the United States of America was too vague to work. The way the constitution was written it gave power to four parts: the congress, the executive branch, the judicial branch, and the states. Because it was so vague it did not really define which powers went where (with a few exceptions). It left too much room to read into and take power away from other branches and into your branch to give yourself more power. The constitution leaves all unmentioned powers to the states, representing the people. This seems like that would be a lot of power, and it would be, except that the other three branches would read into there powers and eventually take almost all powers so that the remaining powers were little and unconsiquencial.

Throughout the history of the constitution the three branches of the government would time and time again expand their powers. Each time taking more powers away from the states and unbalance the system so that the original ideals set would be destroyed. Congress was split into two houses: the senate and the house of representatives. This was one of the ways which the constitution gave an unreal power to the people. The house is the only part of the government which is directly elected by the people. This made the people think they were getting a direct say in the government, but that wasn’t true because everything done in the house would have to go through the senate which was run by the elite. throughout the years congress has constantly expanded their powers through a broad interpretation of the constitution and with every example they have abused the system by unbalancing powers and taking rights away from the people. The biggest thing they used to expand their powers was a small section of the constitution which they expanded to give them any power the saw proper of themselves to have. Article 1 section 8 clause 18 is called the elastic clause. This clause states that congress can make any laws necessary and proper to carry out their powers. This is one of the big reasons the constitution can not work. this clause is just too vague to allow any understanding of what congress’s powers are. Congress would take this clause to the extreme. It does say the can only make laws which would complement their listed powers. However, they took it to mean they could do anything necessary to carry out their "job," which of coarse is anything in their interest, or "in the interest of America." The first major example of their abusement of this clause is the Bank of the United States. In no place does the constitution say that the federal government has any right, or power, to set up a business. Therefor that power would be left for the states. This did not happen, however. Congress, "in their infinite wisdom", deemed it necessary and proper to create a bank to stabilize the economy. Right from the beginning powers were being stripped from the states. It seems the government made for the people was now working against them because the constitution was too vague to protect them. In another instance congress used the necessary and proper clause to pass the Alien and Sedition Act. These laws forbade people to speak out against the government. Doesn’t the first amendment protect peoples right to free speech? But since congress thought it was necessary and proper to have a law like this they were allowed to because that’s the way they interpreted the constitution. Yet another right of the people taken away because the constitution was too vague. Even though the constitutions was supposed to help the government achieve the ideals set by the new nation it turned out to be one of the greatest problems the nation faced, and it was responsible for one of the worst wars in American history, the civil war. This problem first started with the nullification crisis. Because the constitution was so vague that problems erupted over where the powers were to go, the three branches of the federal government began to gain as many powers as they possibly could. This goes against the whole idea of American ideals. The states were the ones who were getting their rights taken from them through broad interpretation of the constitution, when the constitution was supposed to protect them. this cased the states to say that they had the right to declare something the government had done unconstitutional. It was in fact their right because it was a power not mentioned in the constitution and therefor left for the states. It was first brought up in the form of the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions which were in protest to the alien and sedition act. they were denied the right then. It then came up again in the Hayne, Webster debate in regards to a tariff imposed which favored the northern states, and their right was denied then too. The federal government had won out and from then on the federal government would take more powers then ever intended. The constitution had failed. It had let things run wild. It definitely did not fulfill it’s job to try to keep the powers balanced and protect the peoples rights. The broadness of the constitution created problems within the executive branch too. In some cases the constitution was blatantly disregarded. Right from the Washington’s first presidency there was argument about how the constitution would be interpreted. During his presidency two people in his cabinet would change how the constitution would work for the rest of it’s life. Those two people were Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Alexander Hamilton realized that the constitution was written too vaguely to be taken seriously. His standpoint was that the government could read into it because that was the only way things could get done. Jefferson realized that this would strip the people of their rights and in that way destroy the ideals of America. He believed the constitution should be read strictly. The only problem with this was that it did not specifically say anything. It was a catch twenty two, and that is the whole reason the constitution is a failure. No matter how it is interpreted it can not accomplish anything towards the goals of America. Thomas Jefferson’s way seemed to be the fairest to the people and he eventually became the president. However, this proved the constitution can not work for the people. This is because when he became president he was all for strict interpretation which would protect the peoples rights. However, he realized he had no power to get things done. When he wanted to purchase land he found out there was no way the government could which is a huge flaw because it would greatly help America if it could. He ended up buying the land using a broad interpretation of the constitution and going against his own values. He realized the constitution was too vague to work. This isn’t the only time the executive branch has abused the constitution. When Andrew Jackson was president he totally disregarded it proving it had no real power to keep the branches in check. The first problem that came up was because of the Native Americans. The Cherokee were being forced to move but they thought they did not have to under the laws of the united states, so they took it to court. They eventually won and were granted the right to keep their lands. However President Jackson had other plans. He forced the Cherokee to move against the court ruling. The constitution gave no power to prevent against this. Yet another problem with the vagueness of the constitution. Another problem arose during his presidency. Jackson did not like the bank of the united states because it brought the rich elite closer to the power. The intentions of this were good but he destroyed the bank which had already been proven constitutional. This incident brought up the question of who has the right to say something is unconstitutional, because in one of the constitutions many flaws it does not mention this most important power so everybody was claiming to posses it. The Judicial Branch was in no way excluded from this race for power. Although it had no real power to directly meddle in the other branches it used court cases to set precedents for how things would be conducted in the future and therefor pull power to themselves. The first and most important case they used to get power was Marbury v. Madison. In this historical case Judicial review was formed which gave the court the power to declare an act of congress unconstitutional. Marbury was one of the midnight judges appointed by John Adams as he was leaving office. Adams was trying to pack the courts with people from his political party because they would serve for life. Marbury never got his pares and when the next president found it he refused to deliver it. Marbury sued for his job and it went to the supreme court. The judiciary act would have forced the new president to deliver the papers. The courts agreed. John Marshall, the chief justice, said that Marbury had every right to his job, but that congress had created powers not stated in the constitution. Because of this, Marbury did not get his job. Marshal then went on to set up Judicial review. By doing this, however, the court did something they themselves had just said was unconstitutional. The constitution was supposed to be able to solve these problems but it was too vague. Another court case, McCulloch v. Maryland, gave even more power to congress directly taking it away from the states. In this case the supremacy clause was protected and let congress use a broad interpretation of it to take power. When the second bank of the united states was formed Maryland instituted a tax to try and prohibit the bank from being profitable. They said they had the right to control there local business but the federal government argued the supremacy clause protected them. The Supreme Court decided that the supremacy clause protected things set by the government from the states. The American People were losing power by leaps and bounds. This case made the federal government supreme over the states. The constitution had failed to give the states any power to check the federal government. The main ideal set by the new nation was to keep as much power as possible with the states, and now the states had no power. Time and time again in each branch of the government the constitution was read into and powers were created, proving the constitution was too vague to work. Congress used a couple of open ended clauses to create any power they wanted for themselves. The executive branch proved it was too vague to be able to give any real power, and to that end could not keep the branches in check. And, the courts used their case decision to rob people of their rights. The Constitution was made in a way where it was doomed to fail. It did not really say anything so there was bound to be problems, and it has proved true time and time again.


Bibliography

Hall, Kermit L. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York Oxford University Press, 1992.

Witt, Elder. The Supreme Court A to Z. Congressional Quarterly Inc. Washington DC, 1993.

Bacon, Donald C. The Encyclopedia of the United States Congress. Simon & Schusks. New York, 1995.

Gilbert, Steve. Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court IV. Excellent Books. California, 1994.

Danzer, Gerald A. The Americans. McDougal Littell. Evanston IL, 1998.

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