What problems with the original Constitution, or changes in society, led to later amendments?
In an effort to preserve the relevance of the government for future generations, the founding fathers made the constitution a living document. This means that the form and function of the government can be expanded and changed through the process of adding amendments. Many of these amendments addressed specific social failures or design flaws that were either not understood at the time or became more relevant as time went on.
The first ten amendments, or Bill of Rights, addressed the criticism that the rights of the individual were not protected from the power of the government. They protected specific enumerated freedoms and divided power between the federal and state governments more.
Amendment 12 was aimed at reworking the presidential election system to address the development of political parties and make it less likely that members of opposing parties will share power in the executive branch.
The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments passed after the Civil War sought to extend civil rights to former slaves. They tried to make it less likely that African Americans in the south will be socially equal. The 19th amendment extended this right to women in the 1920’s.
The 17th Amendments expanded the principal of popular sovereignty by allowing the people to elect their state senators rather than them being appointed by the states themselves. This was further expanded by the 26th amendment, which extended voting rights to all 18 year olds.
Sometimes amednments correct problems with other amendments. In a strange “double-wammy” decision, the 18th amendment tried to ban alcohol, but the 21st amendment revoked the 18th went it was clear that the American people weren’t willing to give up their alcohol.