You are on page 1of 4

1-4 Founding Documents (pt 2

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

• Goals of the Constitution (Intro)
○ Since the arrival of the Pilgrims and the writing of the Mayflower Compact,
American government has been based on the cooperation and consent of the
○ The Preamble to the Constitution outlines 6 specific goals of the Constitution.
○ The Constitution strives to correct the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation
by creating a “federal system” – including the federal government and the
governments of each state.
○ Ultimately, the Convention’s new basis for government is a republic build upon
the doctrine of “constitutional supremacy.”
○ Some delegates were unhappy with the Constitution and demanded a “Bill of
Rights” before they could support the Constitution.
1-4 Founding Documents (pt 2)
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

1. The Preamble of the Constitution
a. The Preamble begins with the words “We the people.” These words stress that our
government was established by the people of the United States. As is clearly
stated, the American people “do ordain [order] and establish this Constitution.”
i. Jefferson believed that the people are only safe collection of power. He
foresaw government quickly degenerating without an educated and moral
people to uphold their liberties.

2. 6 goals in the Preamble
a. The first goal of good government is to provide a more perfect union than was
found under the Articles of Confederation.
i. It was difficult for our founders to unite thirteen independent states.
ii.They recognized that it would be much easier to protect and defend the
liberties they won in the Revolutionary War if they created a stronger
iii.If the United States government was too weak, it may tempt some states to
ally with European powers against other states.
1. Some states were arguing over western land. Squabbles between
states could lead to civil war.
iv.Roads and transportation routes should be encouraged to unify distant
states and promote prosperity and peace.

b. The Constitution is designed to provide equal justice for all.
i. Our founders believed that it was the government’s responsibility to protect
our rights and provide justice for those whose rights were violated.
ii.Enforcing clear, national laws is the surest way to establish justice.
c. The Constitution is designed to ensure peace, security, and domestic tranquility.
i. It’s the people’s right to enjoy law and order so they can enjoy a sense of
security and peace.
ii.The Constitution allows the federal government to intervene if mobacracy
threatens the elected government of states.
iii.The tyranny of government is avoided (and peace ensured) by placing
most decision making at a local level.
iv.2/3s of the states may unite and defend themselves from an overbearing
federal government.
d. The Constitution provides for a common defense against all enemies (internal and
1-4 Founding Documents (pt 2)
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

i. It is the people’s right to be protected from all enemies who might seek to
conquer or destroy the United States.
ii.At the time, the United States was threatened by Britain, Spain, and the
iii.Ben Franklin, “The way to secure peace is to be prepared for war.” The
appearance of weakness may invite invasion.
e. The Constitution is designed to promote practices and policies for the general
welfare of the whole nation.
i. Americans have a right to have it government serve its “general welfare”.
ii.Thus, the government may not use their resources of the people for the
benefit of certain states or certain people, which would be “special
iii.Designed to prevent the government from abusing it power and created a
special class of citizen.
f. The Constitution should secure the blessing of liberty today and for the future.
i. Americans have the right to have their government continually engaged in
the protection of freedom from generation to generation.
ii.The Founders (and other observers) recognized an educated citizenry as
central to the success of the United States.
1. Alexis de Tocqueville: “…the instruction of the people powerfully
contributes to the support of the democratic republic” and “In the
United States, politics are the end and aim of education.”
iii.Even in peace and “fair weather,” the people have a right & responsibility
to question their government and regain their liberties at any time.

3. The Federal System
a. It had been a weakness of the Articles of Confederation that the central
government was too weak to unify the country. The Constitution created a new
“federal system” (referring to the country’s entire system of government) to divide
power between the central and state governments.
b. The powers the Constitution specifically gives to the federal government are
called delegated powers. There are about twenty delegated powers.
i. Coin money, trade treaties, declare war, etc
c. The Constitution sets aside all other power (that is not delegated) to the states.
Reserved powers are reserved, or set aside, for the states or people.
d. The Constitution grants both the federal and state governments certain shared
powers… these are called concurrent powers.
1-4 Founding Documents (pt 2)
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

i. Taxation, establish courts, banks, establish law and punish law-breakers,
promote health and welfare of the people.

4. “Constitutional Supremacy”
a. The Founders, like many before them, were establishing a limited government –a
government with defined restrictions to its power.
i. England had tried limiting their King with a “legislative supremacy”
ii.The Articles of Confederation had attempted “state supremacy”
b. Through a Constitution written by and ratified [approved] by the people of the
United States, American’s rights and liberties could be ensured.
c. Our founders created a unique brand of “constitutional supremacy.”
d. They hoped that this invention would establish a “People’s Law” that would
survive the test of time.

The Constitution did not specifically outline the rights of the American
people. Rather, it granted certain rights to the government assuming the
states and people would hold all other “unalienable rights.” Still, many
Founders insisted upon a Bill of Rights and submitted over 100
proposals for amendments. Congress presented 12 to the states for
approval. Only 10 were approved and became known as the Bill of