Amending America


"Amending America"

Attempts to amend the U.S. Constitution have a success rate of just 0.2 percent, according to a new temporary exhibit at the National Archives. Over 11,000 changes have been proposed over the last 225 years, but the criteria to actually alter our founding document have only been met 27 times.

"Amending America" showcases not just the procedural requirements as outlined in Article V but many of the modifications groups have thought worthy of writing into constitutional text. Often they've involved imposing contemporary morality on future generations, as when people tried to ban, among other things, child labor, absenteeism in Congress, not telling "the whole truth," and drunkenness. (A cheeky handwritten comment on the last proposal wonders why we don't strike Saturday nights from the calendar, too.)

But the ones that were successful mostly enhance Americans' liberty, the exhibit contends. Some 17 of the 27 ratified amendments "secure or expand individual rights," by abolishing slavery, extending suffrage, and yes, bringing back the drink.