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    Tuesday, 7 February 2017

    Development of the American Constitution system

    Despite the rigidity of American Constitution, the process of its evolutionary growth cannot be undermined. A static constitution, in fact, by changing sock) cannot afford to oope up with the problems generated.  Economic and political environments. American Constitution, on the other hand, has shown remarkable potentialities to meet the ever-changing conditions. Consequently; at present constitutional concepts and its principles seem to be somewhat different as these were envisaged in the original document. Some of these constitutional changes were made consciously through constitutional amendments while other factors also diffused many changes. All these factors that contributed in the development of the Constitution and in its evolution are given below;

     1-Formal Amendments.
    Despite the difficult method of amendment, as proposed in the Constitution, it is not, however, impossible to amend the document. At various times, it was amended to keep the constitutional ideas and institutions in line with environmental settings. The first ten amendments, for example inserted a bill of Fundamental Rights. An important amendment relating to income tax, contributed in the maintenance of fiscal balance between the federal and state governments. The method of 'election to the Presidency was changed through constitutional amendment. Under thirteenth amendment, slavery was declared unlawful. In February 1870, under fifteenth amendment, the Blacks were enfranchised on equal footing with citizens of white races. Under seventeenth amendment, election to the senate was made direct. Nineteenth amendment ensured right to vote to all women on the basis of adult suffrage. According to 22nd amendment, third term of the Presidency was declared unconstitutional. Twenty sixth amendments, which took place in 1971, prescribed 18 years minima m age requirement for all voters. According to 27th amendment, no law affecting the compensation of the Congressmen can become effective until an election of the House of Representatives shall have intervened. Nevertheless, formal amendments to the Constitution, did not play a very pivotal' role in its growth.

    2. Legislation.
    All such laws of the Congress as seek to explain and interpret law of the constitution, are regarded the part of the constitutional law. The constitution itself acknowledges the legal validity of such laws. "To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers—" (Art 18 Sect. VIII). The Framers left certain matters to be enacted through legislation. Rules and regulations in respect of the organization and composition of different political institutions are to be made by the legislatures. For instance, the method of election of Congressmen and the qualifications of voters are regulated under respective state laws. The rules relating to presidential succession, in case of resignation, removal or disqualification of a President; are, regulated under an act of Congress. It is to be noted, that the constitution mentions about the executive only while the structure of administration and that of other departments, has been regulated under Congressional laws. The Congress determines all matters relating to the organization, method and exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts. Certain special courts were established under the laws of the Congress.

    3. Judicial Interpretations.
    Judges of the superior courts performed a positive role in regard to the development of the Constitution, through judicial interpretations. The real function of a judge is, of course, restricted to the interpretation and application of law to particular cases. By interpreting the Constitution, the judges very often give new meanings to law. American Supreme Court, through its power of/Judicial Review, kept the constitutional law in line with changing needs.The Supreme Court liberally interpreted the Constitution in favor of a strong federal government which has been the need of modern age. At the time of drafting the Constitution, the Framers intended to secure maximum autonomy to the states. Similarly, perceiving the present day economic trends, the Supreme Court has interpreted the constitutional provisions regarding 'Regulation of Commerce' in a different sense. The ever-increasing role of the President in day to day administration, owes a lot to judicial interpretations which enhanced his powers. For example, nowhere does the Constitution throw light on the method relating to the removal of federal officials. Supreme Court, in a case, recognized the power of the President to remove federal officials without the approval of the Congress.

    4. Executive Decrees

    The real function of administrative officials is to execute laws; they also exercise the power of delegated legislation. Hence they make new rules and regulations necessary for carrying into execution the statutes. Similarly, they issue new rules while implementing constitutional laws, which are ultimately treated as its part. Executive decrees or rules, however, can be challenged in the courts if they are repugnant to the constitutional law.

    5. Development by conventions
    Just as written sources are part of an unwritten Constitution, likewise usages also develop within a written Constitution. In America, conventions could not, of course, attain as much importance as these are considered in British constitutional system. Nevertheless, different affairs of government are conducted under the impact of conventions. These conventions have appreciably performed useful role in the development of the Constitution. Important conventions are given below:


    1. Indirect method of election of the President has been prescribed in the Constitution but under the impact of present day democratic trends and the emergence of strong party system, it has practically become direct one; though the procedural rules, envisaging indirect method, are still followed.

    2. After his election, the newly elected President explains his policies in the Congress.

    3. Nowhere does the Constitution make it a requirement that the President and Vice President should belong to two different states. According to a Convention, both the offices are expected to go to two different states.

    4. The members of Presidential Cabinet do not attend the sessions of the Congress but they can participate in the meetings of the Committees.

    5. According to a Convention, a member of the House of Representatives is supposed to be the resident of the district from which he has been elected.

    6. Senate generally approves all such Presidential appointments which have been approved by both the Senators of the state in which the officials are to be posted. Moreover, the Senate invariably gives approval of all Presidential appointments of higher officials.

    7. Seniority is given due weight age is respect of the selection of the chairmen of congressional committees. Such members are selected Seniority is given due weight age in respect of the selection of the committee and are also members of the majority party.

    8. All money bills originate in the House of Representatives. The procedure of law-making in the Congress is also based on conventions.

    Before the 22nd amendment of the Constitution, the third term for Presidential candidate was considered undesirable, hence against an established practice. But this long-standing Convention was broken duri8r war-time. President Roosevelt was elected not only for third rather for fourth term as well. In fact, deviation from the customary ways of life is possible when it becomes indispensable. Under the circumstances, no law is violated. To alter a law requires, on the other hand, a difficult process, which is not feasible during emergency conditions.

    Utility of the Conventions
    Conventions of the Constitution have made valuable contribution in making the political system more democratic. The present procedure of the election of the President, to cite an example, has become practically direct one, though constitutional requirements remain intact. Conventions have remedied the excursiveness generated by the Separation of Powers, which was difficult to enforce in letter and spirit in the working of a modern government. At present, close collaboration between the executive and legislative branch of government is inevitable. Thus the members of Presidential Cabinet do not participate in the Congressional sessions but they do attend the meetings of its committees, which are legislatures

    Other factors
    Other factors which contributed in the development of the constitutional structure are: :the emergence of political parties and that of the interest groups and extension in suffrage

     (a) Emergence of political parties in the early period is a matter which is not clear as these could be termed merely political groups. Soon their emergence became inevitable. At present, the parties bridge the gulf between the national government and the state governments on the one hand and between different ,branches of government on the other. As a matter of fact credit goes to the parties to tone down the rigidity of the Division of Powers and That of the Separation of Powers, i.e. two important principles of the Constitution.

    (b) Right to vote was rot secured or the basis, of 'adult suffrage in the early period. Under the fifteenth amendment of the. Constitution, the states were required not to deprive anyone of the right to vote on the basis of such discrimination as color, race or previous servitude.
    From 1900 to 1930, the Blacks of Southern States were deprived of franchise but were later enfranchised under Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, of the Congress. Women were enfranchised on the basis of adult suffrage under 9th amendment of the Constitution. Extension in suffrage bore healthy trends in politics and had establishing effects on the political system.

    (c) Emergence of interest groups also contributed in the evolution of constitutional institutions in their present form. These groups articulate their interest through lobbying. Most of the bills passed by the. Congress is shaped under pressure politics.
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    Item Reviewed: Development of the American Constitution system Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Usman Ali
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