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The United States Constitution

By neilb@uk ·
This is the most quoted document in the threads in TR. There's not a thread goes ten posts without a reference to the constitution or one of the Amendments.

I come from a country without a written constitution. We have a mixture of written sources, constitutional conventions, legal precedent, royal prerogatives and simple custom making up the "British Constitution". We can change our constitution with an Act of Parliament in exactly the same way that we would enact any simple law. I like that as I feel that the constitution evolves with the country and the times. It also seems to work! It's only recently being threatened - at least in its uncodified form - by the Human Rights laws and (perhaps) a European constitution.

So my Stateside chums, what's so special about The Constitution? This thread was prompted by a post suggesting that the document should be part of your school curriculum. Should it? What does it give you that I don't have? Then I'll see if I can find something that I have that you don't!

Neil :)

p.s. As I'm on a course next week, I'll have to leave you to fight it out amongst yourselves during the day...

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Enumerated Powers.

by deepsand In reply to The United States Constit ...

The US is comprised of a federation of Sovereign States, each with its own constitution.

The US Constitution is intended to stipulate those specific Powers which are granted the Federal Sovereign, which are forbidden to the State Sovereigns, and to provide that all not granted the Federal Sovereign rest with the States and the People.

At least that's the underlying principle.

In practice much that had seemingly been reserved to the States and the People, as set forth in the 10th Amendment (set forth below) has been usurped by the Federal government, under the guise of being a power granted by the phrase "provide . . . for the general welfare" as set forth in the Preamble (set forth below.)

This conflict is in fact one born of a dispute between 2 of the Founders, both Federalists, namely James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. The Madisonian view, also shared by Thomas Jefferson, came in time to be known as the strict construction doctrine while the Hamiltonian view is called the doctrine of implied powers.

Preamble to the Constitution
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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.

Amendment X - Powers of the States and People
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

For discussions re. this conflict see

and, as regards the 1st great test of the doctrine of implied powers,

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by neilb@uk In reply to Enumerated Powers.

I think I need to look more into the federal nature of the US as I don't quite appreciate what it means. We are - or were until Tony Blair started the devolution bollocks - a unitary nation and so our "constitution" applied right across the board.

Personally, I'd give Scotland full independence. We've had their oil and gas and now it's running out they cost us in the south a lot more than they're worth.

I'll read the links when I've got some spare time. Thanks again.

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Well, a bit of an explanation re. your system would do as payment.

by deepsand In reply to Thanks

We, here in the US, seem to make a habit of using the terms England, Britian and Great Britian quite interchangeably, most with little to no knowledge that they are distinctions with a difference.

Even those of us who do know the difference are not really up to speed on the issues of sovereignty as they there apply. For example, Scotland has its own Parliment, much in the way that the individual states here have their own Houses, Senates and Governors; but, to what extent does Scotland hold true sovereignty?

If you've the time and inclination, give us a civics lesson on your sytem of government(s).

Inquiring minds want to know.

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The Constitution also limits the power of the federal government.

by X-MarCap In reply to Thanks

That is the problem with all the new laws. They keep increasing the power of the federal government into things they should leave alone.

The three branches are to be co-equal. but the Federal Judiciary is appointed for life. They can only be removed via impeachment, or death... Most Federal judges die in office. Only a few have been removed. The last I know of was Alcee Hastings for the high crime of bribery. He then was elected to Congress with the rest of the crooks...

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Thanks Sandy

by jardinier In reply to Enumerated Powers.

That has demystified for me a lot of issues that are discussed here which I have not understood.

Australia has a constitution -- set out in 1901. The states do not have separate constitutions, but the constitution, like yours, sets out which areas are the responsibility of the Federal Government and which are the responsibility of the states.

Our constitution makes it quite a bit easier to make amendments than yours, and the proposed amendments that have been rejected are mostly related to giving more powers to the federal government.

The Queen of England is our head of state, her representative in Australia being the Governor General.

This is by no means a purely titular role, as was demonstrated in 1975 when the Governor General sacked the then Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.

Under the Whitlam Labor Government (1972-5) our former national anthem "God save the King/Queen" was scrapped and replaced with "Advance Australia Fair."

Our left-wing party, the Australian Labor Party, is pressing for Australia to become a republic, independent of the United Kingdom.

PM John Howard held a referendum in 1999 regarding this matter, but it was clearly worded to ensure that it would not be passed.

[Edited to add content]

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Not quite right there Jardinier old son

by Deadly Ernest In reply to Thanks Sandy

1. The USA constistution is, technically, a constitution and contract of, and between, the people and it says that up front. It establishes a government and draws it authority from the people as a collective group.

2. The Australian constitution is a contract between the member states and establishes a limited government by having the states surrender some of their powers to the new government.

3. The plebecite held in 1974 (touted as a referendum at the time) was on a National Song that could be played instead of God Save the Queen when the Queen or her representative was not present. The matter had three questions 1 was to change the National Anthem and the answer was NO, 2 was to have a National Anthem and the answer was YES, 3 was Pick one of these four songs (words provided) and the answer was Advance Australia Fair.

In the mid 1980's Bob Hawke gazetted, without any prior public discussion or reference to the electorate, that Advance Australia Fair was now the National Anthem and even changed the words to suit his political point of view.

4. Bob Hawke spent many millions on a constitutional review committee and then did NOT put a single one of their recommendations to the public as recommended. He did put to the public some constitutional changes that were similar to the recommendation - all of which gave the parliament more power. None of them got passed in the referendum.

The referendum under Howard was for constitutional changes that did away with the monarchial links while not replacing them with any alternative safeguards that they provide. Unlike Hawke Howard put to the public what came out of the semi-public forum where the republicans discussed and voted on a republic form. You can not blame him for them NOT being able to agree on, and work out, changes that the people saw as 'the harmless little change of head of state' that the republicans claimed was all that we needed.


The main topis of the thread is the USA constitution and it is often raised by the USA citizens in matters as it is the main source of power and authority. I believe that every country should include an education in its constitution and form of government in its curriculum.

edited to corrected two typos - one of whichwas so nicely pointed out - country not counrty, thank you. BTW there is also a difference between a review (check over) and a revue (group of song and dance acts)- I noticed that myself on the reread - just a Freudian slip about how the politicians behave. This damn little window they give us, make it hard to check what I have typed.

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I believe that every counrty should...

hear hear. WELL put, that.

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Thanks Ernie

by jardinier In reply to Not quite right there Jar ...

for correcting and clarifying my post. However regarding the 1999 referendum, the primary reason I voted against it was that we were required to agree to the insertion of a "preamble" and I am not aware that at any time were we informed of the wording or even intended content of said preamble. That is why I suggested that Howard counted on it being rejected, and that it was just a political stunt to temporarily placate pro-republicans.

I composed quite a nice little song for the anthem competition, but it was returned to me with the note: "The words will be chosen first, and then the music chosen later."

As I compose lyrics and music simultaneously, as do many song writers, I thought this was so dumb that I didn't try again.

And yes I emphatically agree that the constitution and form of government should be taught at school.

Of course no thanks to Bob Menzies for naming his conservative party the "Liberal Party" so that it is impossible to comment on Australian politics at this website without first explaining this unusual use of the word "liberal."

Regarding typos, I always copy my post into a Word document for checking before posting it. Alternatively it can be written in a Word document in the first instance.

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Changing our Constitution difficult by design.

by deepsand In reply to Thanks Sandy

1) Our Founders were well aware of the capacity of the people to be less than well reasoned, and sought to ensure against a tryanny of the majority as best they thought possible; and,

2) As our States are Sovereigns in their own right, with all powers not given to the Federal Sovereign by the US Constitution vesting to them and the people, Our Founders also sought to ensure that the individual States' rights were not easily trumped by way of Constitutional Amendments.

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Think of it like this

by TonytheTiger In reply to Thanks Sandy

If not for our constitution, the various states would be seperate countries. Now think how hard it would be to get 50 countries to agree on anything :)

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