A constitution is defined as a basic set of laws and principles establishing a nation’s government. The Constitution of the United States was written by many well-respected men, included several of America’s founding fathers, such as George Washington, Roger Sherman, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison, Jr. According to Madison, the main function of the Constitution involves “helping government promote the public good. ” Since constructed, the Constitution has been called a living document that remains flexible and allows the government to adapt to face new obstacles and changing times.
A vital part of the Constitution displays the necessary and proper clause, better known as the Elastic Clause. This clause provides the main reason why the Constitution, laws, and institutions are adaptable in the United States. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. The preamble to the Constitution prevails as one of the most important part of the historical document. It sets the general guidelines for how the American government should operate and stresses that US citizens are the governors of the nation and give officials the right to lead. The Constitution was guided into effect by several key political figures and documents, mainly the Federalist Papers, which grouped 85 newspaper articles in support of the Constitution written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, who named themselves Publius, in honor of a founder of the Roman Republic.
The Constitution sets forth the powers that American citizens grant to the federal government. It also establishes rules that the government must observe and enforce. The five main principles of the Constitution include: popular sovereignty, limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism. These principles reflect the framers’ desire to establish a national government that serves the people, prevents concentration and abuse of power, and respects the rights of states.
Popular sovereignty means that the government’s authority comes from the people; Limited government establishes guidelines for how officials can act, Article I, Section eight of the Constitution lists what the government can do, while Section nine lists what it cannot do. Separation of Powers ensures that each of the three branches of government has an equal amount of power; the first three articles list the powers and responsibilities of each branch. Checks and balances restrain and divide the power of each branch, this also allow actions such as vetoing to avoid one branch making too many decisions alone.
Federalism creates balance between national, state, and local governments and is meant to protect the rights of state governments, mainly. Since the Constitution changes and adapts when necessary, amendments have been made, which must be proposed and ratified through a formal process found in Article V. The ability to amend the Constitution allows government to address new needs and challenges that have arisen in the country. Currently, 27 amendments to the United States Constitution exist.
The first ten amendments make up the Bill of Rights and act as a thorough protection of citizens’ individual freedoms and liberties. The Bill of Rights was adopted only two years after the Constitution was ratified. At first, the Constitution was thought to favor larger states and many people feared that it gave national government too much power, but throughout the late 1780s and early 1790s, each of the original 13 colonies agreed to ratify the Constitution as the official set of laws for the country.
There exist many important clauses and parts of the Constitution, but one of the most interesting and debated is the Elastic Clause. Found at the very end of Article I, Section 8, the Elastic Clause provides the government with an immense power and responsibility, “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof. The Elastic Clause allows government officials and the individuals who represent the country to adjust laws and determine whether a certain action should or should not be allowed according to the Constitution. This vital clause lets Congress stretch its authority in ways not specifically granted nor denied by the Constitution. Federal government has three types of powers: expressed, implied, and inherent. Expressed powers are found in Article I, Section 8 and include collecting taxes, regulating trade, and declaring war.
Inherent powers are those powers that naturally belong to any national, sovereign government. Implied powers are suggested by expressed powers and are found in the Elastic Clause. An example of the Elastic Clause being used includes a result of the 16th amendment, which allows Congress to tax income, so now the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been set up to collect these taxes. Debate over the Elastic Clause and the implied powers of Congress has been ongoing since the Constitution came into creation.
A key dispute regarding these issues was the 1819 Supreme Court case, McCulloch v. Maryland, which was over the United States Bank, which was established in 1791. Many people, including Thomas Jefferson, did not believe that the Constitution gave the right of setting up a national bank to Congress; they believed that its creation violated states’ rights. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Congress in a unanimous decision.
They ruled that according to the Elastic Clause, Congress could determine changes to laws as “necessary and proper” to fulfill its constitutional duties. The Founding Fathers created the United States Constitution as the baseline for American government and laws. The Elastic Clause allows the government to adapt to changing times. Without the clause, America’s democracy would not be as successful as it is today. The flexibility of the Constitution continues to be the key to its success and stability.