The Expressive Function of Constitutional Amendment Rules

By Albert, Richard | McGill Law Journal, December 2013 | Go to article overview

The Expressive Function of Constitutional Amendment Rules


Albert, Richard, McGill Law Journal


The current scholarly focus on informal constitutional amendment has obscured the continuing relevance of formal amendment rules. In this article, I return our attention to formal amendment in order to show that formal amendment rules--not formal amendments but formal amendment rules themselves--perform an under-appreciated function: to express constitutional values. Drawing from national constitutions, in particular the Canadian, South African, German, and United States constitutions, I illustrate how constitutional designers may deploy formal amendment rules to create a formal constitutional hierarchy that reflects special political commitments. That formal amendment rules may express constitutional values is both a clarifying and a complicating contribution to their study. This thesis clarifies the study of formal amendment rules by showing that such rules may serve a function that scholars have yet to attribute to them; yet it complicates this study by indicating that the constitutional text alone cannot prove whether the constitutional values expressed in formal amendment rules represent authentic or inauthentic political commitments.

L'accent academique actuel sur l'amendement informel d'une constitution a obscurci la pertinence continue de la procedure formelle d'amendement. Dans cet article, je rapporte notre attention sur l'amendement formel pour montrer que la procedure formelle (non pas la modification, mais la procedure elle-meme) remplit un role sousevalue : l'expression des valeurs constitutionnelles. En m'appuyant sur des constitutions nationales, en particulier celles du Canada, de l'Afrique du Sud, de l'Allemagne et des Etats-Unis, je demontre que les auteurs inserent parfois des regles formelles d'amendement pour creer une formelle hierarchie qui reflete des engagements particuliers de nature politique. L'expression possible des valeurs constitutionnelles faite par des regles formelles d'amendement est une contribution qui clarifie et complique leur etude. Cette conclusion clarifie l'etude des regles formelles d'amendement en montrant que de telles regles peuvent servir a une fonction que les erudits n'y ont pas encore attribue. Cependant, elle complique cette etude en indiquant que le texte constitutionnel seul est incapable de prouver si les valeurs constitutionnelles exprimees dans les regles formelles d'amendement representent des engagements de nature politique, qu'ils soient authentiques ou inauthentiques.

Introduction

I.   The Functions of Constitutional Amendment Rules
     A. Why Entrench Formal Amendment Rules?
     B. Values in the Constitutional Text
II.  Constitutional Values and Formal Amendment Rules
     A. Creating a Constitutional Hierarchy
     B. Constitutional Values and Constitutional Hierarchy
     C. Constitutional Hierarchy in Formal Amendment Rules
III. The Authenticity of Formal Entrenchment
     A. Purpose and Perception
     B. Designing Constitutional Values
     C. Interpreting Constitutional Values
Conclusion

Introduction

Formal constitutional amendment rules are largely corrective. Recognizing that a deficient constitution risks building error upon error until the only effective repair becomes revolution, (1) constitutional designers entrench formal amendment rules that can be used to peacefully correct the constitution's design. (2) Fixing defects is therefore an essential function of formal amendment rules. Political actors generally deploy formal amendment rules to "amend" a constitution--from the Latin verb "emendare"--in order to "free [it] from fault" or to "put [it] right." (3) Yet formal amendment rules do more than entrench a procedure for perfecting apparent imperfections in the written constitution: they may also serve the underappreciated function of expressing constitutional values.

Much of the current scholarship on constitutional amendment explores informal amendment. (4) This focus, while important, has obscured the continuing relevance of formal amendment rules. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Expressive Function of Constitutional Amendment Rules
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.