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