Social Sciences

Start Your Free Trial

What is the supreme law of the land? 

Expert Answers info

Ben Orn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2019

write574 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Law and Politics

The supreme law of the United States is the U.S. Constitution. It is the oldest written constitution in use today. It has served as a model for other nations since it went into effect in 1789. Most Americans are extremely proud of the document.

Because times change, the Constitution is supposed to be a living document. Indeed, the United States of 2019 is much different from the nation that George Washington governed as the first president from 1789 to 1797. The Constitution is amended through a process, and there are a total of 27 Amendments—the first ten of which make up the Bill of Rights. It is almost impossible to amend the Constitution today. Not only is the process a laborious undertaking, but the country is too divided politically for a change to be effected. This means some features of American governance—such as the Electoral College—are at risk of becoming obsolete.

A second problem with the Constitution is its brevity and vagueness. It is up to the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution when disputes arise. One area of contention has been the Second Amendment.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Hollis Sanders eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2019

write742 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The United States is known as a "Constitutional Republic" because the Constitution of the United States of America, as well as its many amendments, is the absolute highest standard of the law in this country. This is laid out quite plainly in Article VI. This article also recognizes any laws, treaties, or arrangements that are made in accordance with the constitution to be the supreme law of the land.

This also stipulates that state courts are subject to the constitution as well, and if there ever is a conflict between a state law and federal, the federal law will always be applied. This supremacy clause was first constructed by the Supreme Court under John Marshall for the purpose of challenging state ruling seen as in conflict with federal law.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Walter Fischer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2013

write3,984 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

In the United States of America, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. No state or local law or ordinance can take precedence over the Constitution’s provisions. Article VI of the Constitution states as follows:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

While the Constitution is the supreme law in the United States, its main provisions, especially the first ten amendments to the original document, known as “the Bill of Rights,” remain subject to interpretation. The supremacy of the Constitution, however, remains unchallenged. This is important because individual state legislatures occasionally pass laws that are later found by the Supreme Court of the United States to contravene the Constitution’s provisions—at least as those provisions are interpreted at any given moment. A prominent example of this involves the politically divisive issue of abortion. The state of Missouri has passed legislation in the past intended to make it more difficult for women to abort a pregnancy. Conversely, carefully phrased, repeated Supreme Court rulings have found Missouri’s attempts at blocking abortions to be unconstitutional in light of the famous 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized the medical procedure.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

If you are asking about the United States, the answer is that the supreme law of the land is the Constitution of the United States.  This is laid out in Article VI of the Constitution itself.  Part of that article says that

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof … shall be the supreme Law of the Land…

What this means is that no law made by any state, or even by the Congress of the United States, can contradict the Constitution.

This is why the Supreme Court of the United States is able to overturn laws by declaring them to be unconstitutional.  Those laws are, the Court says, contrary to the Constitution.  Since the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, those laws cannot be valid and must be overturned.

So, the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land, meaning that no law can be legal if it contradicts what the Constitution says.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial