The ‘democratic spirit’ which had been the rallying cry of the settlers in their fight for independence in the 1770s, came to define the identity of the USA against the monarchies and aristocracies of the Old World. Also important to them was that their constitution included the individual’s ‘right to property’, which the state could not override. But both democratic rights (the right to vote for representatives to Congress and for the President) and the right to property were only for white men. Daniel Paul, a Canadian native, pointed out in 2000 that Thomas Paine, the champion of democracy at the time of the War for American Independence and the French Revolution, ‘used the Indians as models of how society might be organized’. He used this to argue that ‘the Native Americans by their example sowed the seeds for the long-drawn-out movement towards democracy by the people of Europe.
A constitutional right can be a prerogative or a duty, a power or a restraint of power, recognized and established by a sovereign state or union of states. All constitutional rights are expressly stipulated and written in a consolidated national constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, meaning that any other laws which are in contradiction with it are considered unconstitutional and thus regarded as invalid. Usually any constitution defines the structure, functions, powers, and limits of the national government and the individual freedoms, rights, and obligations which will be protected and enforced when needed by the national authorities.
Nowadays, most countries have a written constitution comprising similar or distinct constitutional rights. Since 1789, along with the Constitution of the United States of America(hereinafter U.S. Constitution), which is the oldest and shortest written constitution still in force, around 220 other similar constitutions were adopted around the world by independent states.
In the late 18th century, Thomas Jefferson predicted that a period of 20 years will be the optimal time for any Constitution to still be in force since “the earth belongs to the living, and not to the dead.” Coincidence or not, according to recent studies the average life expectancy of any new written constitution is around 19 years.