What has enabled the Constitution of the United States to survive from a collection of 13 states into a powerful nation?
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I would say that the first goal of the Preamble and its general spirit has helped to allow the Constitution to survive and thrive over time. The idea of "form a more perfect union" is a goal that allows the Constitution to change over time. Implied within the goal is the idea that democracy is an experiment and there has to be a spirit of understanding that government is an evolving element, something that is fluid and dynamic. The lack of static definition government allows for a government that embraces change, enabling the Constitution to survive while American society changes. It has allowed the people see that there is a particular strength or quality within "trying to get it right" and that the first goal empowers citizens and stakeholders to understand that when the government is able to embrace change in an open and constructive manner, there is a limitless potential to the growth of a nation. This might be an example of how the theoretical nature of the document can be linked to the actual emergence of the solidified American nation.
There can be hundreds of different valid vies on this topic. However, we can group all the possible factors that have contributed to survival of the Constitution of the United States of America in the following three broad factors.
- The quality of the initial constitution. This includes the wide scope of the constitution as well as the specific provision made.
- The leadership provided by the makers of the original constitution as well as the major national leaders of US through the history. This ensured that the forces designed to subvert the constitution or break apart the country were kept in check. It also meant fairly effective implementation of the constitution for the common good of people.
- Regular amendment of the constitution in light with changing requirements of the country, and also to make improvement as and when scope for the same is uncovered.
On why the U. S. Constitution has survived: Actually, it hasn't, because in practice we ignore large parts of it. While we still preserve the document, we often do not do what the document says, so it cannot be said to have survived.
On this see, American Constitutionalism by Stephen M. Griffin (1996).
Basic American Government by Clarence Carson (1993).
Carson is a textbook; Griffin is a scholarly tome.
I'll take a different tack. I think it's the economic ties that bind us. Our economy, with all of its land and resources, developed with a combined effort of the states, as did the development of our infrastructure for transportation and industry. It has made us dependent on each other for our standard of living, and so the maintenance of a functional government was necessary. Our constitutional version was simply the most convenient arrangement for that to happen under. I think our history in the Gilded Age best proves this thesis.
The Constitution survived because it is an expression of the values of the majority -- there has been a consensus in America about these values for most of the course of American history. The values I am talking about here are the values of separation of powers and limited government. This is the core of the Constitution and it is something that most Americans have agreed with and continue to agree with.
Because of this consensus, the main framework of the Constitution has not really been affected by the change in the size and power of the country.
I would agree that one reason is the wisdom of the original writers of the Constitution. They drew from their past experiences with the English and their form of government and designed a government that would withstand time. A big part of that is the Checks and Balances provided by the three branches of government.
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