The U.S. Constitution Article Five, clause two of the United States Constitution states, “under the Authority of the United States, [the Constitution] shall be the supreme law of the land.” As a result of the fact that the current activist government is pursuing inconsistent policies, many believe the Constitution has become irrelevant because no guiding principles seem to exist. Thomas Jefferson once said, “The Constitution belongs to the living and not to the dead.” Accordingly, it is often referred to as a “living” document because of its regular alteration and reexamination; therefore, the Constitution has not become irrelevant in defining the goals of American government. This will be shown by examining how the Constitution ensures and upholds American ideas of rights, defines governmental structures, allows for an increase in governmental growth, and permits the Supreme Court to shape and define public policy through Constitutional interpretation. Through years of research on court cases, political scientists are in agreement that most people favor rights in theory, but their support diminishes when the time to put the rights into practice arrives.
For example, a strong percentage of Americans concur with the idea of free speech throughout the United States, but when a court case such as Texas vs. Johnson (1989) arises, most backing shifts away from complete freedom of speech. In the case, a Texan named Gregory Johnson set fire to an American flag during the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas in order to protest nuclear arms buildup; the decision was awarded to Johnson in the midst of stern opposition (Beth 68). Lockean philosophy concerning the natural rights of man also serves amajor role in an American’s idea of rights. Many citizens feels that it is the task of the state to preserve such birthrights as life, liberty, and property.
The juristic theory of rights deals with the hypothesis that a man’s natural rights only amounted to the quantity of power he can exercise over any other man. A more general and logical definition of a right is a claim upheld by the law, in which case the Bill of Rights becomes important (Benn 195). Although the Constitution originally did not contain the Bill of Rights, the states threatened to delay ratification until the amendments were made. The main purpose of implementing the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, was to safeguard fundamental individual rights against seizure by the federal government and prohibit interference with existing rights. The Revolutionary War with Britain was still quite clear in the American mind during the writing of the Constitution, so the Bill of Rights had full support of the public because it protected citizens against everything which had angered the colonists about the British (Holder 52).
The Constitution is extremely ambiguous concerning individual rights and personal freedoms of man. It does, however, prohibit the passage of ex post facto laws, which punish people for an act they committed before such an act was illegal, disallow bills of attainder, which punish offenders without a trial, and prevent suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which requires a detained man to be notified of the offense he committed (Gilbert 331). The Constitution also prohibits religious qualifications for seeking and holding a governmental office, and it secures the right of a trial by jury of peers in a criminal case (Gilbert 336). Articles One, Two, and Three of the United States Constitution define the three structures of the national government, and include each branch’s composition and function. Article One deals with the Congress, the legislative structure of the federal government.
It is the Congress, rather than the President, who is bestowed by the Constitution with the lawmaking duty. The legislative branch contains two Houses, one being the Senate, which is based upon equal representation of the states, and the other being the House of Representatives, which is based upon state population. The Framers envisioned Congress as the most important and most powerful branch of government, although today much of the significant legislation is initiated by the President and the executive department (Holder 20). In order to be a Representative, one must be twenty-five years of age or older, a United States citizen for at least seven years, and reside in the state from which he is elected (Holder 21). On the other hand, Senators must have attained the age of thirty years, be a citizen for at least nine years, and also reside in the state from which he is elected. While Representatives serve two year terms, Senators serve six year terms (Holder 23).
The powers belonging to Congress can be classified as either economic or military. Economic powers include the authority to levy taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, coin money, and establish bankruptcy laws (Holder 28). Certain military powers involve declaring war, raising and supporting armies, regulating and maintaining navies, and supplying militias (Holder 29). Article One also contains, in section eight, clause 18, and elastic clause which allows Congress to “make all laws which shall be necessary and proper..” The Constitution also elaborates upon certain acts to which it is prohibited. Such acts include no Bill of Attainder or ex post facto laws, no suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus, other individual rights that man possesses (Holder 32). Article Two discusses the executive branch of the government- specifically the President of the United States- and specifies his powers, duties, responsibilities, and requirements for office (Holder 35).
The President is the Commander in Chief of the United States Army and Navy; he has the power to make treaties and fill vacancies during a recess of the Senate (Holder 37). He is required to give a “state of the union” address each year in order inform Congress of the present condition of the United States as a whole (Holder 38). In order to hold the office of the Presidency, one must be a natural born citizen of the United States, over the age of thirty-five, and a resident of the United States for fourteen years. The case of his removal from office, the powers of the President are handed over to the Vice- President and he shall complete the President’s term in office (Holder 36). Article Three deals with the third branch of government- the judicial branch.
This Article lays the foundation for a Supreme Court of the United States, but all lower courts and federal courts, including the Supreme Court, is under the jurisdiction of Congress. The organization of the federal court system establ …