AP Gov-Ch. 2
AP GOV Ch. 2 The Constitution
Terms in this set (39)
Origins of Constitution
Summer of 1776, group of men went and passed a resolution that began an armed rebellion against the government of the most powerful nation on Earth. A set of ideas drove the forefathers to take such drastic and risky action.
The Road to Revolution
Life was not bad for most Americans in 18th century. The King and Parliament were in control of governing America's foreign policy and trade. This had little influence on most of the population because they were agricultural. After the 7 years' war, Britain got alot of land and thought the land should be based off of colonist defense which established taxes to benefit Britain and not the colonist. The colonist did not like Taxation without Representation. They protested, Britain put up a blockade, and the colonist formed the 1st Continental Congress in Sept. 1774.
The 1st Continental Congress went on from 1775-1776. Virginia was main leader in discussion of Independence. Thomas Jefferson then came as a substitute bringing his talent of an author and political philosophy. On June 7th, Richard Henry Lee suggested that the states be independent and on July 2nd it was approved and then the Dec. of Ind. was adopted on July 4th. It justified a revolution by stating their grievences towards King George. The way the D of I was written was to get help to take on the most powerful nation in the world.
The English Heritage: The power of Ideas
During the Congress, ideas were used from famous philosophers. Many of the ideas in the Declaration were borrowed from the English philosopher John Locke, who argued that human beings have natural rights (Life, Liberty, and Property), which was changed to pursuit of happiness, not dependent on governments. Locke argued that government must be built on the consent of the governed and should be a limited government. Two important limits on government are that governments must provide laws so that people know whether their acts are acceptable and that the government cannot take a man's property without his consent.Locke said it would be allright to revolt if populace felt that the government no longerv had their consent.
Consent of Governed and Limited Government
Consent of Gov: People must agree on who ruler will be.
Lim Gov: clear restrictions on what rulers can do.
Jefferson's Handiwork: The American Creed
Jefferson stated what Locke stated in the D of I. Each person has unalienable rights and the gov. must protect those rights, if faild to do so, the people could form another government. That was just one side, on the other side there were well-est. tradition of opposition towards Executive Power and support the recovering of personal rights. Jefferson claimed that the people should have premacy over the government, and they should rule instead of be ruled. No government had ever been based on the principle of Consent of the governed made the exercise of political power legitamte.
The D of I announced the beginning of a revolution. John Adams suggested to his wife that it will be hard to protect the D of I. The British's army size was quadrupled to that of the colonist's army. The colonist had a waxed and wanning army of 5K. Nevertheless, in 1783, the American colonies won.
The "Conservative" Revolution
The revolution was a conservative movement that did not drastically alter the way of life for Americans. The primary goal was to get back the rights that were theirs when they were a part of Britain. Their was no seperation between colonists becaus eof the belief of consent of the governed, blessing the nation with stability.
The Articles of Confederation
This was a form of government based off of the states. It established a legislation with one house where each state could have one vote on something. There was no president or national court because they believed having a strong central government would lead to a tyrannical rule. State delegations happened haphazardly. The congress had little power outside navy and army and had little money to do so. Their was no taxes and states donated money. It lacked power to regulate commerce for a national economy. The weak and ineffective national government could take little independent action and could not help with the hard times that the nation faced.
Changes in the States.
The most important change for states was a dramatic increase in democracy and liberty, adopting bills of rights which expanded politcal participation bringing in a middle class. With expanded voting rights, farmers became the decisive vote with the power shrinking from wealthy people. Power became concentrated to legislators because they were seen to be closer to the people then other forms of government. The idea of equality was driving change in American society, shoing the republican tendencies in American Life. Many old colonial elite members found this turn of affairs quite troublesome because it challenged their hold on power.
Policies favoring debtors instead of creditors angered economic elite who once controlled nearly all state legislatures. In 1786, a group of farmers lead by Capt. Daniel Shay made a series of armed attacks on courthouses to prevent judges from foreclosing on farms. Neither the state nor the government could raise militia to stop the rebellon showing a major flaw in the Articles of Confederation.
The Aborted Annapolis Metting
In September 1786, a handful of leaders assembled to discuss problems with the Articles with only 5 staes being represented and 12 delegates attending. It was mainly called to discuss commercial conflicts, but was decided that a larger meeting and broader proposal were needed to organize states. The little convention was granted what they asked for and in May 1787, the Constitutional Convention got down to business in Philly.
Gentlemen in Philadelphia
The 55 men in the Constituional Convention were a select group of economic and political notables. They were planters, merchants, and independently wealthy. They were wealthy, educated, and mostly coastal and urban residents.
Philosophy into Action
The delegates were a uncommon combination of philosophers and sherwd political architects. The first 2 weeks were debates about the nature of republican government, then practical and divisive issues sometimes threatened to dissolve the meeting. They certainly did not share the same political philosophy. The group agreed on questions of:
1. Human Nature, 2. Causes of Political Conflict, 3. The object, 4. Nature of Republican Government.
Without a strong government life would be solitary. Jefferson and Hamilton agreed that the love of power and money are two influences on men. They believed that the government should play a role in containing the self-interest of the people.
The distribution of wealth is the source of political conflict. Other sources of conflict-religion, leaders, and governing-led to factions (parties). These factions needed to be checked to make sure that they don't tyrannize each other because many believed that Government runned by factions are prone to instability.
Objects of Government
Gov. Morris said that the preservation of property was the "principal object of the government". However, many delegates agreed with John Lockes philosophy that the preservation would end government. They beleived that that the economic objective was the principle: the preservation of individual rights to aquire and hold the wealth. A few wnated to shut the propertyless out all together.
Nature of Government
Many dlegates did not know what type of government would work. The message was the same: Power should be set against Power, so that no one faction would overwhelm the other. They were influenced by Montesquieu, who advocated seperate branches of government with distinct powers to each have checks and balances on the other branches. They decided that a complex network of checks, balances, and seperation of power would be required for a balanced government.
The Equality Issues
Some of the most important issues focused on equality:
1. Equality and Representation of States, 2. Slavery, 3. Political Equality
Equality and Representation of States
Two plans came into play for equality among states: The New Jersey Plan, William Patterson, that called each state to be equally represented in new congress and Virginia Plan, Edmund Randolph, colled for state representation by population. It was compromised by Roger Sherman and William Johnson proposing the Connecticut Compromise which was to create two houses in Congress. Senate (NJ Plan- 2 senators per state) and House of Representatives (Virginia Plan). This gave the smaller states more power than bigger states, especially when it comes to some of the crucial policy decisions reserved for the Senate
Slavery was legal in every state except Mass., and some delegates did not like slavery. But they could not accept the position because slavery was an economic staple for the South and many other states. The Constitution never bans slavery but bans the shipping of slaves after 1808. But how would the slaves be counted for as a representation for the House. This arose the 3/5th compromise; For evry 5 slaves, 3 were counted as part of the population.
A handful of delegates suggested that national elections should require universal manhood suffrage. This left a majority of the population disenfranchised but was to democratic after what happened with Shay's Rebellion. They finally decided to let the states handle it; if people were qualified to vote in state elections, they could vote in national elections.
The Economic Issues
People disasgreed as to wheter the postcolonial economy was in shambles. There were three economic problems stated that need to be fixed; 1. States had erected taxes against products from other states, 2. Paper money was virtually worthless by debtor class but government forced it on creditors, 3. Couldn't raise money because economy was in a recession. The delegates were postcolonial economic elite who believed that a strong national government was needed to bring economic stablility. Some stated that they were doing this for their own gain because they were farmers with investments that would skyrocket when the Constitution would be adopted. But the broad sense was to build a stronger economy.
The Economic Issues Part 2
The stronger economy that wanted to build would be made through the Congress' power to appropriate funds, taxing, and borrowing. By maintaining sound money and gauranteeing payment for national debt, encouragement rose for economic enterprise and investment. The Constitution gave the Congress the power to create the conditions for properous market. The farmers prohibted practices of individual state monetary systems where the state was not making profit for the nation. The government gave each state a "republican form of government" so legislation and courts could resolve commercial disputes. The obligated to repay the $54 million debt to restore the confidence of investors to get them back into the US. The Constitution spurred a capitalist economy.
Individual Rights Issues
Delegates now had to come up with a way to protect individual rights. Many thought it would be easy due to the limited government and how it can't interfere with those rights. The Constitution says little about personal freedoms. It does prohibit the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the passing of bills of attainder and ex post facto laws, the imposition of religious qualifications for holding office, narrowly defines treason, and upholds the right to trial by jury in criminal cases.
Thwarting Tyranny of the Majority
James Madison and colleagues feared both majority and minority factions because either of them could take control of the government and use it for their own good. Minority factions were easy to handle but Majority was harder. Madison proposed, to prevent possibility of tyranny of Majority; 1. Place as much of the government as possible beyond direct control of majority, 2. Seperate powers of different institutions, 2. Construct system of Checks and Balances.
Limiting Majority Control
To Madison, it was essential to keep most of the government power away from the majority. He wanted the House of Reps to elect the majority. Legislators would vote on senators and special electors would vote for President. Even if the majority gained power, they could not enact policies without agreement between Senate and President. Judges were given lifetime for job, Senators 6 years, and Represenatives were every 2 years.
Seperation of Powers- Executive, Legislative, and Judicial would be relatively independent of one another so that no branch could control others. Power was "shared" among the 3.
Creating Checks and Balances
Because power was not sperate, each branch required the consent of the others for its actions. This system stated that if an institution would seize another, it would not damage the whole system. President could Veto Congress, Congress holds the strings of government, and Senate had to confirm the judges nomination by President.
Establishing a Federal System
This seperated power of government between state and nation, showing another check and balance for power.
The Constitutional Republic
The founders did not want the people to make all the decisions for the government and thought the country was to large for a direct Demcoracy. SO, they went with a Republic; government based on consent of governed which represenatives of the people exercise power. The system has a conservative bias, which favors the status quo since change usually requires a sizable majority and victory at many stages, while opposition to change must win only once. It is difficult for a majority/minority to tyrannize and both the property rights and personal freedoms have survived.
The End of the Beginning
The 109th day of meeting, the Constitution was read aloud. Edmund Randolph did not intend to sign it and Alexander Hamilton made a plea for unity and Elbridge Gerry did not want to sign it. Franklin bluntly predicted that a civil war might break out in the present crisis of America. 10 states voted yes, 0 voted no, and South Carolina was divided. The experience in the last hours of the convention, when conflict intermingled with consensus, showed that implementing the new document would not be easy.
Federalist and Antifederalist
Federalist supported the constitution and ANti Feds opposed it which erupted a fierce battle within the states. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay worte a series of papers called the Federalist papers. The papers defended the Constitution and represented an important statement of political philosophy. The Anti-Federalists objected that the Constitution was class-based and ensured that an economic elite would control government. They also objected to the lack of a Bill of Rights. In response, the Federalists promised to add amendments to protect individual liberties. The first ten amendments to the Constitution became known as the Bill of Rights.
Federalist may not have had support of majority, but knew that many states were skeptical of the constitution and that their legislatures were populated with political leaders who would lose power under the Constitution. The Feds stated that the constitution would be ratified by the states and not their legislatures. Deleware was first to approve on Dec. 7th, 1787 and when New Hampshire approved, being the 9th, it became official. Many states only would agree if the Bill of Rights was added. They selected office holders- George Washington was first Pres and John Adams was first VP. G.W took office on August 30th, 1789 in New York City (1st capital).
The Formal AMending Process
An amendment may be proposed either by a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress or by a national convention called by Congress at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures. An amendment may be ratified either by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states or by special state conventions called in three-fourths of the states. Formal amendments have made the Constitution more egalitarian and democratic. Some amendments, like the Equal Rights Amendment, have been proposed but not ratified. The ERA stated that equality of rights shall not be denied by state or nation due to sex.
The Informal Process of COnstitutional Change
There are several ways the Constitution changes informally. Through judicial interpretation the Supreme Court has the right to decide whether the actions of the legislative and executive branches of state and national governments are in accord with the Constitution. This power of judicial review was granted in the case of Marbury v. Madison (1803). The Constitution can also change through political practice. For example, political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution but have become an important part of how government is organized. Through practice, electors in the Electoral College have become nothing more than rubber stamps. Technology has also changed the Constitution. The media has facilitated the questioning of government policies and helped shape citizens' opinions. Electronic communications and atomic weapons have given greater significance to presidential power. Increasing demands of policymakers has changed the Constitution by giving powers to the government and the president that were not seen by the founders.
The Importanc eof Flexibility
The Constitution is a short document that does not prescribe in detail the structure and functioning of the national government. The Supreme Court is the only court required by the Constitution and Congress gets to decide who is in it. Many governing units we have are not mentioned in the Constitution. The Constitution was not static meant to be written in stone, but was created for a flexible system of government; one that could adapt without sacrificing freedoms. This flexibilty ensured the nations survival.
TheConstitution and Democracy
The Constitution is rarely described as democratic because 18th century upper class society despised the democract type government. The AMerican government was the government of the rich, well-born, and able where the people who owned the country governed it. The COnstituion did not create monarchy/aristocracy. The Constitution offered no guidelines for voter eligibility. There were only 5 amendments that focused mainly on expanding the suffrage of the nation. According to Constitution, the Electoral College votes for President but the poeple of the nation vote. But the voter with most popular vote could lose presidency seat in Electoral College. Technology has diminished the seperation of the people from those who exercise power.
The COnstitution and the scope of Government
The Constitution created the rules of the game of politics and policymaking, many of which limit government action. Most of these limitations protect liberty and open the system to more participants. The Constitution reinforces individualism yet allows groups to flourish by giving them access to policymaking at many different points. The Constitution also encourages hyperpluralism by providing so many effective access points, thus making it difficult for government to act. Many scholars argue that so many checks have reduced the ability of government to reach effective policy decisions.