Could the United States have survived without a written constitution?Could the United States have survived without a written constitution?

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timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think it could have been formed or have survived without a written set of understandings of and rules about what the country would be --- the Constitution.  It's an almost miraculous document, put together by an astonishing collection of men who were able to do what our present legislators seem unable to do ... compromise for the good of the whole. 

The reason for my post, though, isn't about the written document then ... it's about whether we will survive without it now.  The concept of the "living constitution" concerns me; something that is "infinitely" malleable may lose its essential form and fail to fulfill its original purpose.  If the Constitution can be "interpreted" to meet whatever a group at a given moment believes, then its essential function, "to form a more perfect union" may not happen, and we may wind up with a less than perfect union.  I know the Supreme Court is responsible for interpreting the Constitution where necessary; I am just concerned that, as we "discover" new rights, we may be undermining its purpose --- union, not separation.

I know that a lot of people will disagree with this, but that's what discussion is for.


brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't believe it could have survived without a written Constitution.  The Constitution is a federal document, a national document.  It is the governing laws of all of the states.  Without that, or without the Constitution's supremacy of law, the country would either have never been formed, or would have disintegrated early in the 1800s into a collection of weaker states, competing for their own self-interests. 

While it's true the Constitution also caused the Civil War to some degree, the nation never would have survived into the 1860s had there been no Constitution at all.  We simply were not that united economically, socially or politically.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the original thirteen states wrote the Constitution they wrote it in order to establish a federal government and to delegate powers of the federal government. It was written to serve the individual states.

I do not think that the United States could have survived without some sort of written document specifically explaining who has the right to do what. Delegates needed to form and decide who has the power to make decisions. I think there would have been more wars between the states without some sort of agreement.

The Constitution is the framework for our government.

ako6777 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think the United States could have survived without a Constitution.  As humans we need a framework to be governed by.  We create laws and frameworks in every aspect of our lives.  Without this framework of laws and rights I believe the country would have divided up into smaller factions.  Each faction would then develop its own framework of laws and rights. 

I think the Constitution is still need as a guidpost for what is expected of our country's people.  If there is no guidance there would be no unification.  If there is no unification than there is no country. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My guess would be that the United States could have survived without a written constitution, but it never could have been formed without one.

At the time the US was being formed, there were so many disputes between the states and regions that needed to be addressed.  There was also no really agreed upon way that the government should be set up.  Because of this, it was necessary to have a written contract so all the states could know what they were getting into.

But once the country was formed, I think a written constitution would not be 100% necessary.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Our constitution is one of our strongest features as a country. Without it, we would not have survived. It has kept us together, and is still used on a daily basis. Even though it was written so long ago, it is still relevant because of the structure of government.
krishna-agrawala | Student

I is very difficult to say if United States of America would have survived without a written constitution. It is worth wile noting that even with the written constitution, the USA today is not same as the USA with its original 13 states at the time of writing constitution. All that we can say that even if USA had survived without a written constitution, it would have been a very different USA.

The constitution gave the country some form of stability and a means of discussing and resolving differences. The constitution is not a static document. It is a dynamic document which is open to change with identification of its shortcomings and with requirements of changing times. In this way the written constitution has played a major role in developing consensus among differing opinions on best ways to run the affairs of the country. In the formative years of USA, the constitution also played a major role in achieving balance between state and the federal government, and in this way binding different states in a common nation.

Even if USA would have survived and prospered without constitution for some time, it would be very difficult today to manage the affairs of the country satisfactorily without the guiding framework of a constitution. Though there are some countries like UK that are being run well enough without the aid of a formal written constitution. But in case of UK the old conventions and the legal framework developed over eight centuries subsequent to Magna Carta are as good as a written constitution. In case of USA perhaps development of such an alternative to written constitution would not have been possible.

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