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How has the Constitution been able to endure more than 200 years of extraordinary...

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lhannonsea | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 22, 2013 at 12:48 AM via web

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How has the Constitution been able to endure more than 200 years of extraordinary change and growth in the United States?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 22, 2013 at 1:06 AM (Answer #1)

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There are two main reasons why the Constitution has been able to endure for so long through as much change as the US has undergone.

First, it has been able to do this because of the fact that it is not a very detailed document.  The Constitution is not a legal code.  Instead, it is a basic document that only sets out the very basic foundation of American government.  In addition, it sets out much of this foundation in a fairly vague way.  For example, it tells us that the government may not inflict “cruel or unusual punishment” on us, but it does not try to spell out what exact punishments are cruel or unusual.  This means that the Constitution is a fairly flexible document.

Second, the Constitution can be amended to keep up with the times.  This is how the Constitution was able to survive, for example, as women pushed for a larger role in society.  It could be amended to give women the vote, thus changing with the times.

For these reasons, the Constitution has been able to remain solidly in place as the basis of our system.

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kipling2448 | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 18, 2014 at 6:55 PM (Answer #2)

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The U.S. Constitution has been able to endure throughout the nation's often-turbulent history because the presidency of Abraham Lincoln was able to force the abolition of slavery throughout the American South -- the Civil War -- and because the Constitution's provisions are such that they can be applied universally.  As the other answer points out, the document is amendable, and those amendments, especially the first ten (the Bill of Rights) were necessary to keep the Constitution relevant through changing times.  The U.S. Constitution is looked upon favorably by revolutionaries throughout the world and throughout modern history precisely because of its universal themes of liberty and equality -- themes that required two hundred years worth of political dissent and judicial activism to enforce.  The Constitution's institutionalization of the concept of separation of powers -- the delineation of closely prescribed boundaries between the Executive, Judicial and Legislative Branches of government -- has proven as enduring as the rights laid out in those first ten Amendments, and has proven essential for the protection of those rights.

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