Have you ever heard someone say, “That’s unconstitutional!” or “That’s my constitutional right!” and wondered if they were right? You might be surprised how often people get it wrong. You might also be surprised how often people get it right. Your best defense against misconception is reading and knowing your Constitution.
A lot of people presume a lot of things about the Constitution. Some are true, some are not. This page will detail some of the things that people think are in the Constitution, but are not.
One critique of this page is that it is full of nit-picks. Slavery, for example, may not be “in” the original Constitution, but it is in the original Constitution — the word may not have been there, but the concept was. This is absolutely true. But by studying the words and coming to know them intimately, we gain a better understanding of our history and how some arguments about the Constitution endure.
* The Air Force
* Congressional Districts
* The Electoral College
* Executive Order
* Executive Privilege
* Freedom of Expression
* (Absolute) Freedom of Speech and Press
* “From each according to his ability…”
…The Air Force
The Constitution was ratified in 1787, long, long before the advent of the airplane. It provides, specifically, for a navy and an army in Article 1, Section 8. Though they were aware of lighter-than-air flying craft, the Framers could not have reasonably provided for an Air Force. It should be noted at the outset that the Constitution does not provide, specifically, for the other uniformed services, the Marines and Coast Guard. The Marines, however, as an arm of the Navy, could be excepted; and the Constitution does provide for “naval forces,” and the Coast Guard could thus be excepted. How, then, do we except the Air Force? The first way is via common sense — the Framers certainly did not intend to preclude the use of new technology in the U.S. military, and because of the varied roles of the Air Force, it makes sense for it to be a separate branch. The second (and less desirable) way is historical — the Air Force originated as the Army Air Corps, an arm of the Army, similar to the Navy/Marine relationship. Basically, unless your interpretation of the Constitution freezes it in 1789, the Air Force is a perfectly constitutional branch of the U.S. military.
Congressional Districts divide almost every state in the United States into two or more chunks; each district should be roughly equal in population throughout the state and indeed, the entire country. Each district elects one Representative to the House of Representatives. The number of districts in each state is determined by the decennial census, as mandated by the Constitution. But districts are not mentioned in the Constitution. The United States Code acknowledges districting, but leaves the “how’s” to the states (gerrymandering, however, is unconstitutional [as seen in Davis v Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109 (1986), though, the intent of gerrymandering is difficult to prove]).