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AMENDED CONSTITUTION | What Our Constitution Would Look Like With The Amendments Inserted Into The Original Text

What is the amended constitution?

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We all know that the United States Constitution is the foundation of our nation’s government. But what else do we know about it? It is an elegantly handwritten document with the signatures of its framers at the bottom. We may even remember that it was drafted in 1787, but have probably forgotten that when it was written—by a committee—it was a radical innovation in republican government. Now however it is the oldest written Constitution in the world and has been a model to nations around the world ever since. But do we also recall that the now slightly yellowed parchment in the Smithsonian has been amended twenty-seven times and those amendments have significantly altered some important features of the original. Those amendments have not only changed its interpretation, but also profoundly altered the way we are governed two centuries later. In fact, the first ten of those amendments, the most famous ones, the Bill of Rights, were appended within only five years. But whenever we see the document in print, the Amendments appear at the end, so that we lack a context to examine the changes that the amendments have made to the framers' document.

signers of the us constitution_ details by stan.faryna, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by stan.faryna

So what would the Constitution look like if those Amendments were inserted inside the original text—where James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and author of the Bill of Rights—wanted to put them in 1791? When we do that and then highlight them in color, it can be clearly seen how much change has occurred in the two hundred twenty years since its adoption, and what the changes affected. By contrasting the original text in black type, the subsequent deletions in red, and additions in blue, some startling questions arise. These questions occur to us because the colors highlight what has really taken place. It also makes obvious some things we hadn't thought much about. Article I, for instance, includes five amendments to our voting rights. Article II has been amended another five different times, so that the changes take up more space than the 1787 original. As it now stands, with the amendments inserted, only half is from the original, and one-third of the half that was added has been subsequently replaced. Is this what modern scholars mean when they speak of the "Living Constitution"?

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