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The Constitution Essay, Research Paper

The 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 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

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.

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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