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Constitutional FAQ Answer #91

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Q91. "I have a history class and the teacher will give us extra credit if we can go to class tonight with the answer to this question... Technically, the U.S. Constitution is an illegal document... Why?"

A. The commission of the Constitutional Convention was to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Instead, the Framers decided that not amendment but replacement was the best course. Technically, the Articles of Confederation could not be amended without the consent of each and every state in the United States. The Constitution, however, calls for ratification by only nine of the thirteen states. If the Constitution was an amending document, it would indeed have been illegal.

But the Constitution may be better called a document of revolution — it overthrew the confederation with a federation. The revolution, however, was bloodless and with the consent, eventually, of all of the states. Rhode Island and North Carolina were hold-outs in ratification, and they did not actually become parts of the new United States until after the U.S. had been operating for a short time — they realized the futility of trying to go it alone.

So, I suppose in some very technical ways, the Constitution was illegal for a short time; however, since it was accepted by all 13 states that made up the United States under the Articles, I'm not sure you could argue that it is still so.


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