What Makes US Constitution Unique

My essay on the unique nature of the US Constitution, written for online course

Constitutional Law
by Akhil Reed Amar

    My task was as follows:

    In 1787, the Constitution was the largest-scale instance of a democratic form of self-government in the history of the planet.
    • What specific provisions or features of the Constitution best exemplify or demonstrate the embodiment of the value of democracy?
    • How were these features uniquely democratic compared to other forms of government at the time, such as the monarchy and Parliament of England, or under the Articles of Confederation?

    My essay:
    The Constitution's preamble beginning with the words "We, the people..." is the best indicator of the value attached to democray by authors of the Constitution, because it certifies that the Constitution was not written under particular people's superior authority, supposedly received from god or any nobelty. It was a declaration representing the will of the people, i.e. all man, as they were created equal[1]. The documents was, of course, penned by particular people, the Constitution was not an internal agreement or determination of the undersigners; it was in the air and the undersigners just put the words down onto the paper.[2]

    In addition, the Constitution used the term "people", not "commons", a term underestimating the people, or "nation", a term that implies too much commitment among individuals of a people, or "subject", a term that indicates existence of a monarch. The Constitution refers to individuals of the time as "people", because it does not consider them having more o less power than they could factually hold as a result of the Constitution.

    Further, the value attached to democracy by the Constitution is also apparent in the fact that the first article is devoted to the Congress, the most populous organ of the government. Appointment of the President was based on electoral college as well, but he or she is just one individual. The best way to represent the people, including their discussions and differences inside, is the Congress and it has a certain priority in the Constitution, showing that the constitution is for the people indeed.

    Democratic nature of the Constitution is also seen in the second article, which provides for the qualificiations of Presidency. Firstly, the second article does not require the President to be White. For today's people this may be normal, but for that time it is a choice beyond its time, because many, maybe majority of the people would not find a racial discrimination strange by that time. Secondly, the second article does not require the President to be owner of particular amount of land. This is very democratic for that time, because the aristocratic nature of Britain had a strong reflection on the structure of the economic and political organization of the new lands in American continent, i.e. land owners had more money, more voice and more influence in the society[3]. However, the authors of the Constitution managed to avoid such economic discrimination, too.

    The Constitution was uniquely democratic compared to other countries of the time, because, first of all, it was the first written constitution in human history. Though there had been many older constitutional documents in past, such as Magna Carta, the Constitution was the first written instrument, by which the creators of a state makes written commitments relating to democratic nature of the government.

    It was also quite unique since it does not anticipate a permanent head of state. The president would be elected for a certain period and would quit the office by the end of the term; and so did George Washington. Therefore, the Constitution's unique nature was not dependant only on its theoritical anticipations, but also the way is properly implementation.

    [1] The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence (issued by the Congress in 1776, 11 years earlier) says "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...", so the coverage of the wording "we the people" is clearly defined in the same document.
    [2] It is believed that Thomas Jefferson made this admission years after the Constitution, to author of his biography.
    [3] This was more true for southern states, where slavery and therefore "mastership" was still very common.

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