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p. 123Epilogue

The future Constitutionlocked

  • David J. Bodenhamer


The United States does not operate today under the Constitution ratified in 1788 or the Constitution as completed by the Bill of Rights in 1791 or even the one revised by the Reconstruction amendments. Nor is it the same nation. The United States, then a plural noun and now a collective one, has grown from thirteen states hugging the Atlantic seaboard to fifty states spread across a continent and beyond. It has experienced a civil war that ended one social and political regime and ultimately ushered in another far different from anything most people could have imagined in 1776 or even in 1865. From its beginnings as a second-rate country with a tiny navy and army, it has grown to become a global economic and military superpower. It is a democratic republic in which democracy weighs far more heavily in its constitutional and societal calculus than the framers would have endorsed. Its citizens vest government with the responsibility for safeguarding their prosperity, health, safety, and welfare in ways alien to the experiences of the founding generation....

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