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The Constitution Essay, Research Paper
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 allot 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
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
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
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
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