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The U.S. constitution, as Thomas Jefferson argued, should be easily amendable - NewViewNews
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The U.S. constitution, as Thomas Jefferson argued, should be easily amendable

NewViewNews · politics · prompt · 11/01/2020

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Background info:
The United States Constitution has been the supreme law of the land since its ratification in 1789. Growing out of a perceived failure of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution was written to provide more power and cohesion to the central government. Since 1789, 27 amendments have been added to the constitution. Notably, the first ten, known as the Bill of Rights, guarantee citizens’ civil liberties and were ratified in 1791; amendments 13,14, and 15 are known as the Reconstruction Amendments and provide the civil rights of citizenship, equality, and voting to all males, including to those enslaved prior to the civil war. The process to amend the constitution is rather arduous, and apart from the 27 that have been ratified, the Constitution has remained unchanged since 1789. Amendments are the only way to alter the constitution, including the retroactive changing of a previous amendment.

Many different philosophies exist in regards to amending the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison lied on different sides of this debate. Jefferson believed that “the earth belongs in usufruct to the living … the dead having neither rights nor powers over it.” Essentially, he argues that we should not be subject to the beliefs and decisions made by past generations simply because they are codified in constitutions: that present and future generations could do better as the world develops, but only if there is less rigidity in the Constitution. Madison, on the other hand, responded that stability and predictability, rather than rigidity, is good in order to make a stable society. Having a code of principled laws that is difficult to change and overturn, he argued, helps society withstand fits of partisan passion and division. Additionally, the changes that the present and future make could be worse than what was written originally.

While it appears Madison’s philosophies have prevailed on paper, these arguments persist today outside of changing constitutional texts. The biggest divide on the supreme court is between those who have a strict interpretation of the constitution and those who apply its word more liberally. But what about the text itself? For the Politics section’s NewViewNovember prompt, we ask you to respond to the following statement:

The U.S. constitution, as Thomas Jefferson argued, should be easily amendable.

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NewViewNovember is a month-long series of contests hosted on NewViewNews. All seven topics of NewViewNews (business, entertainment, politics, religion, social issues, sports, and technology) have their own opinion prompt to respond to. The best response to each prompt receives $25 at the end of the month and the best site-wide opinion article, including NewViewNovember responses, for the month receives $50. For information on how to respond to articles, check this section of our how-to guide. For our opinion contest headquarters, navigate to the "contest" page. Any questions can be directed to [email protected]

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Further reading for this prompt can be found in the sources section.

Sources

How to amend the constitution: https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/constitution

Jefferson’s Thoughts (Begin’s second to last paragraph): http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/thomas-jefferson/letters-of-thomas-jefferson/jefl246.php

Madison argues to his fellow federalists that while they should allow amendments, they ought to be moderate: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-12-02-0126

The Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10): https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights
Amendments 11-27: https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/amendments-11-27

Wikipedia: List of Proposed Amendments to the United States Constitution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_proposed_amendments_to_the_United_States_Constitution#19th_century

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