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Colonists felt that basic rights were not allowed when they were under British rule; decide to split. 2. Declaration of Independence and Constitution replaces Articles of Confederation and protect natural rights (life, liberty, property) 3. Unalienable- a human right based on nature or god 4. Colonists include complaints against King of England; but Declaration contradicts itself on issues such as slavery. B) The Real Revolution 1. War for Independence- not just war but movement for revolution. 2. Real Revolution- radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people 3. Colonists wanted legitimate gov’t that would require consent of governed. Power not exercised on tradition but as result of grant of power in written constitution. 4. 1776- eight states adopt written constituions; more states follow. However, very weak and didn’t know whether to make central gov’t very strong or weak. C) Weaknesses of the Confederation 1. Articles of Confederation (1781)- “league of friendship” 2. Weak b/c it could not levy taxes or regulate commerce. Each state voted on its own policies. 3. Central gov’t had virtually no power; couldn’t amend Articles b/c all 13 states had to agree. 4. Maryland 1785 meeting unsuccessful; Philadelphia 1787 meeting successful (produces new Constitution) 2) The Constitutional Convention A) The Lessons of Experience 1. James Madison spends most of 1786 studying other gov’t and determining what would work. Creates Federalist papers – beacon lights for new gov’t. Confederacies were too weak to govern and collapsed, and stronger gov’t’s were so powerful that they trampled citizens’ rights. B) State Constitutions 1. Problems of Articles of Confederation evident in American States (i.e. Philadelphia and Mass.) 2. Philadelphia too democratic and all power given to one house legistlature. 2. Mass had a good model gov’t for separation of powers. (Elected governor could veto acts of legislature, judges also balanced power). C) Shay’s Rebellion
1. 1787- Daniel Shay leads group of ex-Revolutionary War soldiers plagued by debt and high taxes to forcibly prevent courts in western Mass from sitting. 2. Gov’t could not help Mass due to lack of $ and man power. D) The Framers 1. Although Philadelphia Convention was made for a revision of Articles, it actually produced a whole new written constitution. 2. Many debates on what should be put into constitution. 3. Framers “writers/creators” of the Constitution agreed to protect natural rights 4. Agree that gov’t should not threaten one’s libterties and therefore should be limited. 5. Problem- how strong/weak should gov’t be? Did not want aristocracy. 3) The Challenge A) The Virginia Plan 1. Virginia Plan called for strong national union organized into three gov’t branches (legist., exec., jud.) Needed to determined how to design true national gov’t. 2. Original concept: a) Legislative: composed of 2 houses: elected by the people, and the other chosen by the first house among people nominated by state legislatures. b) Executive: chosen by national legislature. c) Judiciary: could veto acts of legislature. 3. National legislature would have supreme power (veto state laws) 4. At least one legislature would be elected directly by the people. B) The New Jersey Plan 1. Small states feared that new constitution would be written so states would be represented by population. New Jersey Plan wanted weak enough national gov’t in order to keep the interests of the smaller states and weaken the power of Congress. 2. Wanted each state to have one vote. Almost became framework for new constitution. 3. Majority decided that stronger national gov’t was needed so Virginia Plan go more votes. . C) The Compromise 1. Great Compromise (Connecticut compromise) Great Compromise: (1)A House of Reps consisting of 65 members were apportioned among the states on the basis of the population. Elected by people. (2)A senate consisting of 2 senators from each state were chosen by the state legislatures. 2. The convention agreed to 4-year limit for Presidents and allowing the President to pick the 3. Supreme Court justices create first draft of Constitution.
4) The Constitution and Democracy 1. Debate over whether Constitution created democratic gov’t. Framers feared that having everyone participate in gov’t would make it insecure. a) wanted Republic - a gov’t in which elected representatives make the decisions. 2. Judicial Review- the power of the Supreme Court can declare laws unconstitutional. 3. An Amendment can be proposed by 2/3 of vote of both houses of Congress OR by a national convention called by Congress at the request of 2/3 of the states. 4. Amendments need to be ratified by ¾ of the state. 5. Did create democracy b/c gov’t based on popular consent. A) Key Principles 1. American version of representative gov’t based on two major principles: separation of powers and federalism. 2. Federalism= gov’t authority shared by national and state governments. (1)ENUMERATED POWERS: power given to national gov’t. (2) RESERVED POWERS: power given to the states (3) CONCURRENT POWERS: Powers shared by both the national and state gov’ts. 2. Checks and Balances= authority shared by 3 branches of gov’t. B) Government and Human Nature 1. Separation of powers: Constitutional authority is shared by 3 different branches of gov’t. 2. Faction: A group with a distinct political interest. 3. Kept in mind that one faction could become too powerful so separation of power created. 5) The Constitution and Liberty 1. Federalists – wanted strong national government; wanted ratification of Constitution 2. Antifederalits wanted weaker national government; didn’t want ratification of Constitution A) The Antifederalist View 1. Antifederalists would only allow the Constitution to be ratified if there were more restrictions on the federal government = Bill of Rights 2. Coalition = an alliance of factions. 3. Original Bill of Rights: o Writ of habeas corpus = an order to produce an arrested person before a judge. (You cannot be detained unless it is approved in court). o No bill of attainder may be passed by Congress or the states. (Bill of attainder = a law that declares a person, without a trial, to be guilty of a crime).
o No ex post facto law may be passed by Congress or the states. (Ex post facto = A law that makes an act criminal although the act was legal when it was committed). o Right of trial by jury in criminal cases is guaranteed. o The Citizens of each state are entitled to the privileges and immunities of the citizens of every other state. o No religious test or qualification for holding federal office is imposed. o No law impairing the obligation of contracts may be passed by the states. B) Need for a Bill of Rights 1. All 13 states ratified after a Bill of Rights was added. (1790). 2. Did not limit power of state gov’t over citizens, only power of federal gov’t. C) The Constitution and Slavery 1. Black slaves made up 1/3 of the population in most states; not mentioned in Constitution 2. After U.S. independence, slaves in northern states were free + the slave trade ended in the north; still heavily practiced in south 3. Slavery wasn’t mentioned in the Constitution is because the southern states would never ratify the Constitution if it banned slavery. 4. Slaves made up large population in south. Southerners wanted slaves to be counted in population. The convention prohibited the import of slaves in 1808. 6) The Motives of the Framers A) Economic Interests at the Convention 1. Charles Beard- An Economic Interpretation of the Constitutionargued that rich urban-class Framers of the Constitution supported it because they would benefit from it. 2. Framers tended to vote according to how the state where they were from would benefit. B) Economic Interests and Ratification 1. Economic factors play large role in popularly elected state ratifying conventions C) The Constitution and Equality 1. Today, people argue that the Constitution is weak b/c it allows the federal gov’t to fall to pressures of special interests that make social inequality. 7) Constitutional Reform: Modern Views A) Reducing the Separation of Powers 1. Separation of power = fight btwn different gov’t groups for more power 2. Gov’t agencies are corrupt and there is interference from legislators and special interests. President has to:
(1) To be able to appoint members of Congress to serve in the cabinet. (Constitution forbids Congress members to be federal appointive while still in office). (2) To dissolve Congress and call for a special election. (Elections now can be held only on schedule on the calendar.) (3)Allow Congress to require a president who has lost its confidence to face the country in a special election before his term would normally end. (4)Allow the Presidential and congressional candidates to run together. (5)Have the president serve a single 6-year term. (6)Lengthen the terms of members of House of Reps from2 years to four years so the House and President could be reelected at the same time. 3. These proposals are similar to the British parliament system. B) Making the System Less Democratic 1. A new Provision in the Constitution that has been ratified by the states = amendments. 2. Critics say the Constitution gives the gov’t too much power. 3. Line-item veto: An executive’s ability to block a particular provision in a bill passed by the legislature. (President can veto a particular part of a bill and approve the rest).
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