The Final Friday Constitutional – Amendments 26 And 27
Happy Friday and welcome to the last of the Friday Constitutionals (Wow, that is surprisingly hard to write!)! This is the final of the Dogs 21 week series on the Constitution of the United States. For those of you just coming in, where have you been the last five months? In any case this series takes a layman’s look at the founding document of our nation and its system of laws. If you are interested in the previous installments of this series, you can find them at the following links:
Friday Constitutional 1 – Preamble, Article One, Sections 1 and 2
Friday Constitutional 2 – Article One, Sections 3 and 4
Friday Constitutional 3 – Article One, Sections 5 and 6
Friday Constitutional 4 – Article One; Sections 7 and 8
Friday Constitutional 5- Article One, Sections 9 And 10
Friday Constitutional 6 – Article Two, Section One, Clauses 1-3
Friday Constitutional 7 – Article Two, Sections 1-4
Friday Constitutional 8 – Article 3 Judicial Branch
Friday Constitutional 9 – Article 4 Relationships Between The States
Friday Constitutional 10 – Articles 5, 6 and 7
Friday Constitutional 11 – Amendments 1 and 2
Friday Constitutional 12 – Amendments 3 And 4
Friday Constitutional 13 – Amendments 5 And 6
Friday Constitutional 14 Amendments 7 – 10
Friday Constitutional 15 – Amendments 11 And 12
Friday Constitutional 16 – Amendments 13 And 14, Slavery and Equal Protection
Friday Constitutional 17 – Amendments 15 – 17
Friday Constitutional 18 – Amendments 18, 19 And 20
Friday Constitutional 19 – Amendments 21, 22 And 23
Friday Constitutional 20 – Amendments 24 And 25
This week we will look at the 26th and 27th Amendments and have a little summary about what the Dog has learned from this experience.
The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 years of age. This Amendment was proposed and ratified when a law which did the same thing was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The main reason the law was on considered unconstitutional was that it not only change the Federal minimum voting age, but also the State and Local as well. The High Court found that this was an overreach by the Congress when the States of Texas and Oklahoma sued. By making it a Constitutional Amendment this objection was rendered moot, as the Constitution trumps all State Constitutions and laws through the Supremacy Clause (Article 6, Section Two).
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Section Two is the standard boiler plate giving the Congress the power to create and enforce laws that will facilitate this amendment. The 26th was proposed by the House and Senate in March of 1971 and was ratified less than 90 days latter when North Carolina and Oklahoma voted on the First of July to ratify it.
No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
The 27th Amendment is pretty good public policy as far as the Dog is concerned. It prevents any change in the compensation for anyone in Congress from changing while the current Congress is in session. It basically means that the Congress can decide to change how it is paid, but it will only go into effect after the next election.
There is something that appeals to the Dog’s sense of balance in the fact that this, the most recent Amendment to the Constitution is one that was originally proposed in very first Congress in 1789. The Framers really did have ideas that looked beyond their current political situation and tried to provide a framework that would serve their new nation for centuries to come.
How do you go about summing up the Constitution of the Untied States? It took 21 weeks and around 30,000 words to give a very cursory overview of it. However there have been some thoughts the Dog has found to be gelling in his canine head as he wrote this series.
1) The Constitution is not a buffet. The Dog has said this in a couple of installments but it is the biggest take away of this series for him. There are problems in the way the Constitution leads our law, there can be no doubt about that. The thing is, there is a provision (three actually) for changing Amendments that no longer work or are being perverted. The fact there are problems is not even close to enough reason to pick and choose amongst the Articles and Amendments for the ones we like. If you are to have the 4th Amendment protections that you like, then you have to support the 2nd Amendment ones that you do not. If you are very strongly apposed to the right to bare arms or feel that the recent Supreme Court decision on hand-gun bans is wrong, then your course is clear, you have to change the Constitution, not lobby to somehow weaken the 2nd Amendment. To do so makes it that much easier to weaken the 4th Amendment.
2) This document is so unknown, as a whole, by our fellow citizens that it is very nearly criminal. Prior to this series the Dog had not read or thought about the entire document, even though he was very aware of several of the Bill of Rights Amendments. If there is one thing that the Dog would ask of everyone reading this, it is to encourage anyone and everyone you know to read the Constitution. It might seem a little daunting at first but it really is not that hard to get through.
3) This document was never ever intended to be set in stone. The entire notion of “Strict Constructionism” is bogus on its face. There is a need to understand what the Framers were tying to do when they created Amendments, but to assert that they wanted them interpreted by the standards of their time is clearly not the case. The Framers did their very best to set up a system the prevented the concentration of power, that limited what the power of the Government would be, that made it hard to do anything expediently, but they had no illusions that what they put in place was the final word on what the nation would need. If they had felt that way, they would not have allowed ways of Amending the Constitution. They would not have granted the President the unchecked power to pardon if they felt that a system of blind justice would not, from time to time, produce an unjust outcome. They were the first pragmatists, making a strong effort to address the problems of their times, but not handcuffing the Republic of the future.
4) The Constitution should not be changed capriciously. The history of the 18th and 21st Amendments shows that trying to put morality into our Constitution is a fool’s errand at best. This is not to say that we should not change it to address our current needs, merely that any Amendment must be as the others are, either a definition of the way that the Federal Government should be run, or a prohibition on its power, designed to increase the rights of the people at the cost of the power of the Government.
The Dog has complete confidence that if those two principals were followed any future Amendments will serve the nation well and long.
So, we will call it a week for a final time. The Dog would like to thank Emory Law School for its fine on-line version of the Constitution.
Finally, the Dog would like to thank you, the readers that have been here from the start or who have come in over time. It is a patriotic thing you have done, taking the time to read up on the founding document of your nation.
The floor is yours.
One housekeeping note, at the request of Lady Libertine, next week there will be a bonus installment of Friday Constitutional discussing the Iroquois Nations contributions to the Seal of the Untied States as well as the Constitution.