Our Founding Fathers crafted a sublime governing document in the Constitution of the United States. It has been used as the basis for other republics around the world. As the longest-serving current governing document in the world, it is a benchmark against which other documents are often measured.

While its longevity is a powerful testament to its efficacy, the fact that it was written so long ago, in a time to which many people cannot relate, has led many to question whether it can, in its entirety, still be relevant in today’s society. This question has led to the oft-repeated notion of the Constitution being a “living” document. This can be either true or false, depending upon what the speaker means “living” to be, as it applies to the Constitution.

First, let us dispel the falsehoods in calling the Constitution a living document. It is not living in the sense that we may choose to reinterpret or ignore parts of it simply because we view it as antiquated. We may not presume that any part of it does not apply simply because certain conditions either did not exist at the time of its implementation or did exist then, but exist no longer. Perhaps most important of all, we may not presume that parts of it no longer apply because new laws seem to be at odds with the Constitution; in such cases, the Constitution is the definitive law and must be obeyed. Any law at odds with the Constitution can, should, and must be overturned in court or repealed by legislative action.

The Constitution is a living document in the sense that it can be changed through the amendment process. To date, there have been twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution. The first ten of these are known as the Bill of Rights, which acknowledges certain inalienable rights of which people may not be deprived by any government of or within the United States of America. Get to know these well, for if you do not know your rights, you may easily be deprived of them – which, of course, is the same as not having them in the first place.

To many, the “old” language of the Constitution seems daunting. As you will see, however, taken a bit at a time, it is not hard to digest. In fact, there is a simple elegance to the way in which the Constitution is worded.  It has an economy of words that is entirely missing in the vast majority of modern legislation.  This is because its aim is simple: it provides for a government that is limited in size, scope, and power over its citizens.  A full understanding ultimately makes it clear that our federal government was devised to serve us and to protect us from the excesses of those who would take advantage of everyday citizens from positions of power.

Without further ado, feel free to dive in and start reading the Constitution. The links above will take you to the Constitution and the Amendments to the Constitution – all presented here in their original text

One more thing: if you do not have a paper copy and would like one right away, click on the link in the menu for the Printable Constitution Booklet. It will take you to a site that shows you how to print a pocket-sized Constitution using only 5 sheets of paper, scissors, and a stapler. Once cut and folded, it’s small enough for pocket or purse. Consider making one or more for yourself – and more to give away to family, friends, and other acquaintances.

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