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Constitutional FAQ Answer #144

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Q144. "When changes are made to the Constitution, is anything added to the original document to show that something has been changed or is now being omitted?"

A. The short answer is: No.

The Constitution is best read from start to finish. The Amendments supersede anything to the contrary that came before the amendment. So, for example, when slavery was abolished with the 13th Amendment, all provisions of the Constitution that dealt with slavery became moot. But why would this be? And why is there no official "abridged" version created after an amendment?

It should be noted that this site, and others, do annotate the text of the Constitution. But these annotations are not "official," they are simply supplied as a guide to the reader. The reason is that this is way some of the Framers of the Constitution wanted it.

The first amendments to the Constitution were proposed by James Madison, one of the Framers, just 18 months after the Constitution was written and just barely a year after it was ratified. Madison's idea was that new provisions should be added into the text and old provisions that were stricken or modified should be deleted or changed in the text itself. Roger Sherman, another Framer, didn't like the idea. Sherman was opposed to a bill of rights, but said if there was to be one, they should be added at the end. As a signer of the Constitution, he did not want his signature on something he didn't agree to. We have done it this way ever since.

Not all constitutions are done this way. The Vermont Constitution, for example, has two temporary sections: Section 75 authorizes the Supreme Court to insert all amendments into the Constitution itself, adding, changing, and deleting text as necessary. Section 76 authorizes the Supreme Court to alter the text to be gender-neutral.


URL: http://www.usconstitution.net/constfaq_q144.html

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