In what ways and why are the constitutions of the UK and the US different?

Essay by Jesus_Loves_You May 2004

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One of the most significant differences, that is evident from the evaluation of the constitutions, is that one is codified and the other is not. The US constitution has a physical existence whereby it is written down and is accessible to virtually anybody in the US to refer to. Contrary to this, the UK constitution is regarded as being uncodified as it has not been formally established in a "bill of rights" format. However, these judgements of the constitutions are only accurate to a certain extent. The origins of both constitutions explain why they are different in structure due to the organic development of the UK constitution, comprised of conventions, acts and authoritative works, and the establishment of the US constitution in 1789 following the "years of weakness and chaos resulting from the pre-existing Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union which loosely bound the colonies together since 1778". However, although the UK constitution is generally regarded as being unwritten, there is evidence to suggest that this is not entirely correct.

For example, Walter Bagehot wrote a book entitled "The English Constitution", an authoritative work. However, the only problem with this was that the day after it was published an act was passed, immediately resulting in it being outdated. Similarly, any laws that are passed in Britain immediately become part of their constitution, which suggests that the UK constitution cannot be deemed as uncodified.

Emerging from the codified/uncodified aspect of the constitution is the assumption that the US constitution is rigid and the UK's is flexible. However, there are complications with this vague assessment due to the way that each has been structured, regardless of whether or not they have been written. The US constitution cannot be considered as ultimately rigid and impossible to adjust, due to the evidence of the...