The Constitution of the United States was written by our forefathers to set up guidelines and regulations for the government to follow as well as give certain rights to the citizens of this nation. “In the past 200 years, the U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times” (How the U.S. Constitution, n.d.). “On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States therefore proposed to the state legislatures 12 amendments to the Constitution that met arguments most frequently advanced against it” (Bill of Rights, n.d.). As times have changed, so has the needs and the ways that the citizens in the United States. The U.S. Constitution was constructed over 200 years ago, back then times were much simpler. Presidents ran and were voted into office without limits, black individuals were unable to vote, and women were supposed to be seen not heard. You could fight for your country in a state of war, but you couldn’t vote or make decisions for your family until you were of the age of 18. Since then, blacks and women have been made “equal” in terms of living, working, and caregiving. An individual is considered an adult at the age of 18, unless committing an adult type crime, then at the age of 16, can be tried as an adult. As times have changed, so have the regulations of the Constitution. For the Constitution to be amended, there are specific rules that need to be followed. As stated in Article V of the Constitution, it can be amended in one of two ways. First, an amendment can take place by “a vote of two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate followed by ratification of three-fourths of the various state legislatures” (Amending the Constitution, n.d.). The second way to amend the Constitution is by “a Convention called for this purpose by two-thirds of the state legislatures. Later being ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures” (Amending the Constitution, n.d.). The first amendments brought forth by the original states which ratified the Constitution, are considered the Bill of Rights. They were written by James Madison who believed that there needed to be a written document that limited the power of the government and protected the rights of the citizens living within the states. “Twelve proposed amendments were sent to the state legislatures on September 25, 1789, of which 10 were adopted” (Madison, 2007). The very first amendments of the Constitution can be found at the beginning of the bill of rights. The first ten amendments include the following and can be found on the Charters of Freedom website (n.d.): 1)The freedom of speech, press, peaceful assembly, and the freedom to practice religion. 2)A well-regulated militia, the right to keep and bear Arms. 3)No soldier in a time of peace shall be housed in a home without consent of the owner. 4)The right against unreasonable search and seizures
5)Fair trial by jury of the peers
6)Speedy and public trial
7)Cases may not be examined by another court
8)Excessive bail will not be required, no cruel and unusual punishment. 9)Express rights not written in the Constitution
10)Powers not written in the Constitution that are directly given to the government, or to the states, are reserved for the people of the particular state. As with many of the Amendments, there have been limitations set on the rights given to them. There have been limits put on freedom of speech, press, the right to bear arms. “During times of war, U.S. Presidents John Adams and Abraham Lincoln passed laws forbidding government criticism. Those laws were highly unpopular and short-lived” (Madison, 2007).
The Bill of Rights was written into the Constitution, and since there have been some individuals who were not included into the original document and therefore fought for the same rights as the individuals who wrote them. Although there were some who were against the new laws and regulations, many believed that a written form of regulation that all citizens and government officials were to rule by was a must.
The Constitution was written by wealthy white men who owned land and salves. They had their own thoughts and feelings on how the country should be ran. However, they felt that only white males could make the best decisions for the country. One of the first amendments after the original 10 was the 13th Amendment. The 13th Amendment declared that “Neither slavery no involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (13th Amendment to the US, 2013). After Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation of Proclamation, freeing the slaves of the south and Even after this amendment, women and individuals of color within the states were still not looked at as equals.
“The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” (14th Amendment to the US, 2013). This amendment allowed all persons including former slaves, the right to live in this country and consider themselves as citizens who were allowed to make rights and live by the written rule of the Constitution. The 14th Amendment forbid any state to deny its citizens the right to “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" or to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (14th Amendment to the US, 2013). By stating the direct roles of which the state would abide by it allowed the protection of all citizens within those states and the rules and regulations granted by the Constitution along with each amendment stated in the Bill of Rights.
In 1865 with the signature and ratification of the 13th Amendment, it was only a matter of time before men of color received the right to vote along with the white males of the states. The 15th Amendment to the Constitution granted men of color the right to vote by declaring “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (15th Amendment of the U.S, 2013). However, even with the right given within the Constitution, many African American males were unable to fulfill the duty of voting due to the lack of literary knowledge. Also with little to no work and even less pay, “Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before African Americans were registered to vote” (15th Amendment of the U.S, 2013).
With 12 other amendments written between 1865 and the final ratification on May 7, 1992 with Amendment 27 (The Constitution, n.d.) there have been various effects that have taken place within the states, government and by the individuals who reside within this country. The amendments have given way to protest, exploitation of the legislators, and the abilities and rights of the citizens and how they live and prosper within the states. We have set limitations on such rights that could have been taken advantage of (setting term limits on presidential candidates) and by setting guidelines so others do not infringe the rights of others while practicing their right to freedom of speech and press.
Our forefathers who helped in creating our government and the way in which it is ran today, knew that there needed to be restrictions placed on the government that allowed the citizens who reside within this nation a way to live and thrive. With each passing day, year, or decade, the way we as individuals live and conduct our lives, will only enhance the way the Constitution will be interpreted. As generations come forward, society, the economy, and the views on how the branches and life are ran, will only cause for more amendments to make the document fit our needs now and later and leave what use to be, a thing of the past. However, without this document to begin with, we wouldn’t have the rights to change and redirect the things we feel need to be done. Just as times have changed in the last 200 years, the next 200 years should bring even more change and interpretation with each generation and generations to come.
Amending the Constitution. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2013, from Exploring Constitutional Conflicts website: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftraials/conlaw/articlev.htm Bill of Rights. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2013, from The Charters of Freedom website: http://www.archieves.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_html How the U.S. Constitution Has Changed with the Times. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2013 from Scholastic website: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/how-us-constitution-has-changed-times Madison, J. (2007, April 16). Bill of Rights. Current Events, 106, 5-5. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/196427315?accountid=35812 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (2013, April 23). Retrieved May 13, 2013, from Library of Congress website: http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/13thamendment.html 14th Amendment