Article V: Changing Dimensions in Constitutional Change

To anyone raised under the Constitution of the United States, that document’s declaration that it is “the supreme law of the land” may appear as a commonplace assertion. In some other nations the constitution is not viewed as law, but is seen as a primarily political document. In fact, some foreign constitutions are formally proclaimed to be “political constitutions.” The writers of the American Constitution were well aware that they were engaged in fashioning an arrangement for the exercise of political functions and the peaceful adjustment of political conflict. And, however much validity there continues to be to de Tocqueville’s famous dictum that in America every issue of policy is translated into constitutional terms and debated as a legal issue, it is also a historical fact that, by long-standing precedent of the Supreme Court, some issues arising under the Constitution are candidly designated “political questions,” while others are often avoided by the selective application of judicially developed rules of caution.