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vagueness of the constitution that has been helpful

The vagueness of the Constitution has been helpful over time, as it is a living document and allows for interpretation by government officials as new dilemmas arise.

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Mckinley Plummer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Constitution of the United States is called a living document because it allows amendments (changes) to occur. The founding fathers were intentionally vague in areas of the Constitution, hoping that the document would long endure, and lawmakers (Congressmen) would need to make practical, modern applications to statements in the Constitution.

Two Amendments of the Constitution that represent this intentional vagueness which are helpful are the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

The Ninth Amendment states the following:

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

This is a general, all-encompassing Amendment that allows for judges and the courts to interpret the rights of the people in many ways in order to protect these rights. For example, in the 1780's (when the Constitution was written, signed, and ratified), early Americans obviously did not have cell phones; therefore, the Ninth Amendment does not state that Americans have the right to privacy on their own personal cell phones. However, judges can interpret the Ninth Amendment to protect the privacy of Americans' communication on their cell phones (if they have not broken the law).

Another example of how the vagueness of the Constitution is helpful to Americans is the Tenth Amendment.

The Tenth Amendment states:

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.

This Amendment declares that any rights that do not belong to the federal government belong to the states or the citizens of America (as long as they are not prohibited somewhere else in the Constitution). Again, this allows for the rights of the people to be supreme over time, adjusting with the needs of American citizens. The Tenth Amendment makes sure that just because a power is not specifically written in the Constitution, that doesn't mean that the federal government can seize all areas of power. Again, the founding fathers wanted to make sure the people had more power (over time) than the government, through voting, representatives, petitioning, etc.

Surprisingly, there are only twenty-seven Amendments to the Constitution. Since the late 1780's, American lawmakers have not needed to add or change the Constitution very much because the founding fathers crafted the document so well, allowing room for expansion or definition of details over time, as needed.