Friday, October 4, 2013

History, the Government, and our legal documents

This blog post is not to debate the current issue of the US government shutdown and its various political maceration's.  Rather it is to give you the tools to help define your ideas and how you feel about the current state of events.  The Library at TCTC is fortunate enough to have a number of databases and documents that should help you in this process.  Start first at our page that is dedicated to History which is  Look under the tab American History and you will find these resources (and more).
U.S. History in Context
The premier source for American history: provides access to 4,000 primary source documents, as well as journal articles covering themes, events, individuals, and periods in U.S. history.

Oxford Companion to United States History

Over 1400 entries cover all aspects of American history: people, events, and topics such as science, religion, politics, social trends, the arts, economics, etc.

Milestone Documents in American History

Included in the Salem History database. Provides full text of the most important documents in American history, e.g. Monroe Doctrine, Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Speech, Marshall Plan, Bybee Torture Memo, etc. An extensive analysis and historical overview are provided for each document.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law
Comprehensive history and overview of American law: concepts, events, movements, cases, and persons.

Encyclopedia of the American Constitution

Comprehensive overview and history of the Constitution, with application to subsequent issues like hate crimes, race, adoption, gun rights, etc.
Major Acts of Congress
Examines landmark pieces of legislation, explaining factors that led to their adoption and their impact on American life.

One of the rumors and status messages currently going around is that the Affordable Healthcare Act will violate the 28th amendment.  If you are an observer of American history, you would know we have NO 28th amendment.  However, consider that you are not up on the Constitution and the various amendments.  All of the above databases could help you discover the answer to this question: What do the amendments to the Constitution say?  How are amendments added to the Constitution?
From West’s Encyclopedia of American Law: Constitutional Amendment. (West's Encyclopedia of American Law. Ed. Shirelle Phelps and Jeffrey Lehman. Vol. 3. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2005. p126-127.)

The means by which an alteration to the U.S. Constitution, whether a modification, deletion, or addition, is accomplished.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution establishes the means for amending that document according to a two-step procedure: proposal of amendments, followed by ratification. Amendments may be proposed in two ways: by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or by a special convention summoned by Congress on the petition of two-thirds (34) of the state legislatures.

In the long history of the U.S. Constitution, over 5,000 amendments have been introduced in Congress. Only 33 of these have been formally proposed by Congress, and none has ever been proposed by a special convention.

No matter which method is used for the proposal of a constitutional amendment, Congress retains the power to decide what method will be used for ratification: approval of three-fourths (38) of the state legislatures, or approval of three-fourths (38) of special state conventions. Congress may also place other restrictions, such as a limited time frame, on ratification.

Of the 33 amendments proposed by Congress, 27 were ratified. Of the amendments ratified, only one—the TWENTY-FIRST AMENDMENT, which repealed a PROHIBITION on alcohol—was ratified by the state convention method. The rest have been ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

The process for amending the Constitution is deliberately difficult. Even when an amendment is proposed by Congress, it has taken, on average, two-and-a-half years for it to be ratified. That difficulty creates stability, with its accompanying advantages and disadvantages. The advantages lie in the fact that the Constitution's provisions are not subject to change according to the whims of a particular moment. The disadvantages inhere in the reality that the Constitution must also adapt and be relevant to a changing society. Given the difficulty of amendment, much of the burden of adapting the Constitution to a changing world has fallen on the shoulders of the Supreme Court and its powers of JUDICIAL REVIEW, which have been described as an informal method of changing the Constitution. However, constitutional amendments may in turn modify or overturn judicial opinion, as was the case with the Eleventh, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Sixteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments.
And just in case you still have questions after reviewing those databases, please see 

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