Constitutional FAQ Answer #93 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Constitutional FAQ Answer #93

<<Previous Question |
Question Index |
Subject Index |
Constitutional Index |
Next Question>>

Q93. “How is the Constitution a living

A. The Constitution has been termed a “Living Document,” but whether you
think it is, or rather should be, depends on your interpretation of the Constitution itself.
Through out time, the Constitution has been interpreted by many people;
Presidents, Congress people, Judges, Justices, and plain folk like me. The
fact that we are able to do this at all is where the phrase comes from.

Some believe that the Constitution is a whole document in and of itself, and
that any further interpretation of its text is not only unnecessary but
undesirable. However, my feeling is that the bulk of the people in the United
States take a view that allows the Constitution to be interpreted to at least
some extent. In interpreting the Constitution, it is said to grow, expand,
adapt. In this way, it is like a living thing. It is able to take the
external surroundings and change to suit them. These changes are most visible
in the decisions of the Supreme Court.

For example, at one point, the Court ruled that separate institutions for
black and white citizens were perfectly legal and constitutional, as long as
the institutions were equal in power and efficacy — the “separate but equal”
doctrine. In this century, the Supreme Court turned this doctrine on its ear
by declaring that separate cannot mean equal, and segregation was

Last Modified: 10 Aug 2010

Valid HTML 4.0