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Author: culcha Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 756705  
Subject: Re: Dead, Dead, Dead! Date: 1/30/2013 2:25 PM
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“It’s not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead,” he said.

I think it's correct to think of the Constitution as a living document in at least three senses.

First of all, it may be (and has been) amended. So, there may appear new items that were left out in the original text (e.g., a prohibition against slavery or "involuntary servitude," federal income taxes, women's suffrage, presidential term limits and succession, etc.). In that respect, it's unlike the Ten Commandments -- which will never allow of an 11th Commandment, or any amendment to the original Ten.

Second, its meaning becomes clarified (e.g., through our continuing research into the background of the Framers (their intentions, the historical background of the words and phrases they used, etc.) and through the historical lines of court cases that have been connected to the Constitution's various provisions. (Thus, it might not be readily apparent what the meaning of a phrase was in 1776 -- or what historical connections it invoked. Sometimes there are non-accidental connections between the Constitution and earlier English common law. These things may not all be apparent to today's casual reader of the Constitution, and growth in historical and legal inquiry and investigation may lead to further insights about the Constitution. (In this respect the Constitution is similar to the Ten Commandments -- further inquiry and investigation into matters historical, linguistic, etc. may lead to greater understanding.)

Third, (and partly connected to the preceding) is the development or unfolding of constitutional ideas through legal cases, especially Supreme Court cases. (Thus, for example the "separate but equal" language of Plessy v. Ferguson was regarded as dispositive of segregation cases -- until Brown. Now, it has been discarded. Precedents -- like Plessy v. Ferguson may have some status -- but can be overridden.)

culcha
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