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AMERICAN CONSTITUTION Citizenship by Mª Verónica Brain A first concept that has evolved significantly is the

AMERICAN CONSTITUTION

Citizenship

by Mª Verónica Brain

A first concept that has evolved significantly is the We, firstly founded in the Preamble of the Constitution. This concept refers to citizenship as one that has undergone major changes during these 200 years.

At the time the Constitution was ordained, this Wereferred only to free men. Nowhere in the written Constitution is it stated in that way. However, slaves were not citizens and therefore they were not entitled to vote. Women, even though they were considered citizens - if they were white - also had no right to vote.

The first change to the concept occurred as a result of the Treaty of 1848 that ended the war between the USA and Mexico, which also included the granting of citizenship to all Mexican settlers who inhabited the territory of California, under the protection of the written Constitution, which says nothing against this.

Then in 1857, the Dred Scottdecision, which held that a black person could not be a citizen, even if very negative at the time, paved the way for the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, which included blacks as citizens, but did not rule on other minorities.

A big step came 1898 when the children of foreigners born in the United States were declared citizens, by being born on American soil.

1996 was the year a million people were sworn as citizens of the United States, of all races and from all over the world.

The Fourteenth Amendment exalted the Constitution, so every inclusive decision of the Supreme Court has enriched and complemented the unwritten Constitution, and therefore the Constitution as a whole.

The Right to Vote

A second concept closely related to reflection of republican democracy.

citizenship is the

right to

vote

as

a

As I have stated, in 1788 only white men had the right to vote, though there had been some exceptions in a few states, admitting the vote of men from other races.

The written Constitution said nothing about it being forbidden for black men or women to vote. However, the interpretation of the unwritten Constitution was verified; all states had laws in this regard.

Eighty years passed since the end of the civil war, and because of this, the vote for black men was authorized. The Amendments together granted freedom and recognized their citizenship through the written Constitution.

On this matter, the post-war period after the First World War, then the war in Vietnam, are the milestones that led first to the inclusion of women, then equating rights with obligations.

It was understood by the people of the United States that if they had contributed to the war effort, first women, then young people who had been called to war at the age of 18, therefore making them responsible to fight for the United States, then necessarily at the same time they should have the right to vote in all elections for representatives and senators, i.e. rights must be proportionate to the obligations, with a sense of equality between them.

However, these required paths Amendments, which had the support of the majority of citizens, who believed that the obligations should correspond to the rights.

Equality

The

last

concept

that

I

discuss, the

richest,

from

my

point

of

view, its

contribution coming from the unwritten Constitution, is the concept of equality.

The written Constitution has no restrictions and no limits to equal application. However, this concept that comes to life with the birth of democracy, the Declaration of Independence of 1776, in the early days of constitutional validity, was a concept also quite restricted by race and gender in its application.

The Supreme Court of the United States, recognizing it as an old and accepted legal concept brought by settlers from England, has empowered this concept.

It has been, in my view, an empowerment of the court, along with assuming the role that the Constitution recognizes in this third branch of government, which has made a series of judgments over a hundred years that have expanded and deepened the concept of equality. These were major success and accomplishments during the decades of 1950 to 1970.

Now, with the possibility of universal health care, a new era of openness and complexity of this rich concept looms, which affects notably the life of every single citizen of the United States of America.