By Tobias A. Dorsey
What you hold in your hands includes America's fundamental legal document—the Constitution of the United States.
Every day, in Washington and across the country, people draft bills, make policies, and take actions with the Constitution in mind. Whatever it is they want to do, they need to know if it is legal and legitimate—that is, if it is constitutional. Does the government have the power to do it? Even so, does it violate separation of powers or state sovereignty or individual rights?
Those questions must always be asked, and the search for answers must always begin here, in the constitutional text. It doesn't hold all the answers, of course—nor can it.
Some parts of the Constitution we know almost by heart. We expect to find mention of the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court—and indeed we do find them. Freedom of speech and the right to a jury trial—yes, there they are.
There are many other things that we might expect to find in the Constitution but never do. We can search in vain for a clause that captures a principle like "checks and balances" or "separation of church and state" or "one man, one vote." Nowhere does the Constitution mention political parties or national parks or innocent until proven guilty.
The entire Constitution is here—to be read, and pondered, and read again. The way it’s been done since 1789, day by day, Congress by Congress, generation by generation.
Isn't it time you joined in?
Tobias A. Dorsey is the author of the Legislative Drafter's Deskbook.
Table of Contents
Legislative Process Flowchart
Tips for Contacting Your Members of Congress
Introduction, by Tobias A. Dorsey, author of Legislative Drafter's Deskbook
Constitution-Related Excerpts (TCNCAM.com)
The Declaration of Independence
The Constitution of the United States
The Bill of Rights
Amendments XI - XXVII
Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States.
Painting by Howard Chandler Christy"While many had a hand in this process, it was New York lawyer and future American politician and diplomat Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) who actually took on the task of penning the Constitution, putting into prose the resolutions reached by the convention. Morris had the considerable help of the records that James Madison (1751-1836) of Virginia had kept as he managed the debates among the delegates and suggested compromises. In that capacity and in that he designed the system of checks and balances among the legislative (Congress), the executive (the president of the United States), and the judicial (Supreme Court), Madison had considerable influence on the document's language, quite rightfully earning him the designation 'father of the constitution.'" From "Who wrote the U.S. Constitution?" on Answers.com
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