The Constitution: The Urge to Amend

Constitutional change occurs spasmodically. Of the 24 amendments, in 178 years of Constitutional history, 17 were enacted in three fairly short periods: the Bill of Rights in 1791, the Reconstruction amendments from 1865 through 1870, four others around World War I. The 1960s may go down as the fourth era of amendment.

There have been two amendments since 1960: one gave Washingtonians the vote in presidential elections; the other abolished poll taxes in federal elections. Last month, Congress sent to the states for ratification what is potentially the 25th Amendment, dealing with presidential disability and succession. Last week the...

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