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3. THE FEDERAL COURTS HELP TO EXPLAIN THE MEANING OF THE CONSTITUTION
One purpose of the Federal courts is to explain or interpret our Constitution, laws, and treaties. The courts are sometimes called on to decide the meaning of words of the Constitution. A few of the laws made by Congress have been held to be unconstitutional (not in agreement with the Constitution). Many others have been held to be constitutional. The Supreme Court has approved as constitutional many acts of Congress which members of the Constitutional Convention could not possibly have had in mind at the time when the Constitution was written. What statesman of 1787 could have imagined the need for laws to regulate telegraph, telephone, or radio between the States? Yet the Supreme Court has decided that such laws, when they are drawn up in agreement with the basic principles of government given us in the Constitution, are constitutional. Such decisions, and the laws which they have approved, have enlarged and added to the Constitution without changing it.
4. CUSTOM AND THE PRACTICES OF OUR POLITICAL PARTIES HAVE ADDED MEANING TO THE CONSTITUTION
The political parties in this country have adopted different ways of nominating candidates for national offices. Neither the Constitution nor the Federal laws gives us any standards to regulate such nominations. Yet the way of choosing officers to whom the people may delegate authority is part of the plan of government built on the foundation of the Constitution.
Sometimes custom is stronger than written law. It is a custom that the President shall in most cases appoint members of his own political party to head the Executive departments of the National Government. This has proved a good way to reach the objective of the Second Article of the Constitution-the setting up of an effective executive branch to put the laws into effect.
The twenty-one formal amendments to our National Constitution represent but one method by which our Constitution develops
Development Of Our National Constitution By Informal Methods
Development of Our National Constitution by Informal Methods
5. RULES MADE BY GOVERNMENT AGENCIES GIVE MEANING TO THE
Many of the acts passed by the Congress are rather general. They do not take care of all the details which are necessary to put the laws into effect. This responsibility is delegated to some government agency, such as a department, bureau, or commission. Often the agencies which put the laws into effect have to make rules to fill in the details. These rules have the same general effect as acts of the Congress if they interpret the law and do not go beyond it. In this way the rules made by government agencies help to develop the plan of government outlined in the Constitution.
We can readily see that the Constitution has grown both through regular amendments and through informal methods, as Figure 22 shows. A great Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, said over a hundred years
"We must never forget that it is a Consti-
come, and, consequently, to be adapted to the
It should be remembered, however, that the Supreme Court of the United States may decide whether each part of the government plan built up by laws on the foundation of the Constitution is constitutional or unconstitutional.
THE CONSTITUTION HAS GROWN BY THE ADDITION OF NEW STATES TO THE NATION
One by one new States have been added to the Federal Union. Instead of the original 13 States there are today 48 States in our country. These new States sometimes were formed by dividing old States. However, the Constitution provides in the Fourth Article that a new State may only be formed out of part of an old State if the legislature of the old State gives its consent. For example, Maine separated from Massachusetts and became a new State in 1820, but only after Massachusetts had consented.
Reproduced from "Historical Sketch of Louisiana and the Louisiana Purchase," prepared by Frank Bond. Courtesy of General Land Office.
New States have been organized out of territories (lands) which have been joined to the United States. Some of these lands were bought with money; some were gained by treaty or in other ways. The following table shows the new lands which have been joined to our Nation since 1789. Study also the map shown in Figure 23.
TERRITORY ADDED TO THE UNITED STATES SINCE 1789:
Louisiana-purchased in 1803 from France.
Oregon-gained in 1846 by treaty with Great Britain.
Philippine Islands-gained in 1898 by treaty with Spain.
Puerto Rico-gained in 1898 by treaty with Spain.
American Samoa-gained by treaty in 1899.
Panama Canal Zone-perpetual lease in 1904 from Republic of
Virgin Islands-purchased in 1917 from Denmark.
For many years our Government owned large areas of western lands, which were not part of any State. These it governed as Territories. As time went on, the people of these Territories applied to the Congress to admit the Territories into the Union as new States.
HOW A STATE IS ADMITTED TO THE UNION
When a group of people, living in a particular area, which is not part of an existing State, wishes to set up a new State, it petitions the Congress for permission to do so. The Congress may then tell the people of that area to prepare a State constitution. The people organize to do this and offer to the Congress a State constitution which (1) sets up a representative form of government for the State group and which (2) is in no way contrary to the National Constitution. If a majority of the Congress approves of the proposed constitution and thinks that the area would