1 INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN GOVERNMENT 2 CHAPTER 1

1 INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN GOVERNMENT 2 CHAPTER 1

1 INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN GOVERNMENT 2 CHAPTER 1 The Constitution of the United States What is a Constitution? 3 Constitutionalism Constitutionalism is the belief of limiting power by

written charter. Constitutions take different forms in different lands. Constitutions embody intangibles Constitutional Functions A Constitution outlines the organization of government. A Constitution grants power and authority to government. A constitution can be a mainstay of rights. A constitution may serve as a symbol of the nation. The Road to Nationhood 4

The Declaration of Independence: The Idea of Consent Between 1763 and 1776 British attempts at direct control clashed with colonial self-interest and identity. The Declaration of Independence stated colonists grievances against British rule. The Declaration also expressed the political ideas and values of the day including the following themes: Humankind shares an equality. Government is the creation and servant of the people. The rights that all people intrinsically possess constitute a higher law binding government. Governments are bound by their own laws. The Articles of Confederation: The Idea of

Compact 5 State autonomy was preserved. Equal representation for the states was preserved. The central government was granted only a few important powers. There were no separate executive or national courts. Amendments were almost impossible. 6

An Overview of the Articles of Confederation The Articles of Confederati on provided for the dominance of the states in the political system and granted only a few powers to Congress. 7 The Making of the Constitution

Prelude to Philadelphia The major deficiencies of the Articles were a weak central government and state governments that had to much power. Shays' Rebellion illustrated the economic problems and weaknesses of the central government. The Annapolis Convention led to a call for a constitutional convention. One notable success of the Articles was the Northwest Ordinance, laying the basis for government in the West. 8 The Philadelphia

Convention America of 1787 was sparsely populated, weakly defended, and internationally isolated. The delegates that went to the convention were among the most notable and talented of their day. At the convention: Deliberations were held in secret. The Great Compromise incorporated the Virginia Plan for a strong national government and the New Jersey plan for strong state governments and created numerical representation in the

lower house and equal state representation in the upper house. The three-fifths compromise allowed slaves to be counted as a fraction for representational purposes. Still, a majority of Americans (slaves and women) were denied representation and participation. The Virginia Plan, The New Jersey Plan, and The Constitution 9 In the form signed by the framers on Sept. 17, 1787, the Constitution reflected some features of the Virginia and New Jersey plans. Other features of the two plans were discarded during the

summers debates. The Great Compromise settled the issue of representation, drawing from both plans. Ratification 10 Article 7 required the approval of nine state conventions before the new government could go

into effect. Supporters of the Constitution called themselves Federalists and the other side Anti-federalists. The Federalist Papers, a collection of essays supporting the Constitution, is still a major source of American political theory. The Anti-Federalists believed that the Constitution was conceived illegally, weakened state governments, threatened individual liberty, and promoted a commercial empire. An Overview of the Constitution of 1787 11 In the form in which it left the hands of the framers in 1787, the Constitutio n stressed

the powers of the national governmen t and did not include a bill of rights. Features of the Constitution 12 Republicanism and Divided Powers The framers chose a Republican government (or a representative government) with divided powers. A mixture of democratic/nondemocratic features was called for, including:

Popular elections, indirect popular elections, and appointment The Constitution limited government power and diffused and dispersed power in order to prevent tyranny. Power was divided horizontally in a system of checks and balances where the legislative, executive, and judicial branches share power and vertically between national and state governments. Divisions of power were designed in part to limit the influence of factions and to cope with human ambition. Side effects of these attempts to check tyranny were: Difficulty dealing with threats to individual liberty in the states

Added difficulty governing, due to fragmentation which can lead to weak political parties, often giving the advantage to those who would delay, deflect, or derail Amendments to the Constitution by Subject 13 Since the Bill of Rights (Amendments 110) was added in 1791, only seventeen formal changes have been made to the Constitution. Most have occurred in periods of reform and have affected the manner in which officials are

elected and the operation and powers of the national government. The Constitutional System of Checks and Balances 14 The framers designed the Constitution, not just to divide governmental function among three branches, but also to create a tension among the branches by allowing each one influence over the other two. American constitutional government means

not just a separation of powers but also separate institutions sharing certain powers. The objective was to safeguard liberty by preventing a concentration of power. A Single and Independent Executive 15 The idea of executive authority was considered suspect at the time of the Convention The Electoral College was a compromise between direct election of the president

by the people, election by congress, and election by state legislatures. Adaptability 16 Although it is a product of the eighteenth century, the Constitution has adapted over time. The Constitutions brevity necessitates interpretation. There is elasticity in the language of the Constitutionsome words and phrases have no precise meaning.

The elastic clause gives Congress implied powers that have been used to meet new challenges and needs. The Constitution exalts procedure over substance, thus avoiding time-related policy choices. Changing the Constitution 17 Amendment by the Rules The Constitution has been amended relatively few times. Congress or state legislatures may initiate amendments. Only Congressional initiation has been

employed successfully. New amendments must be ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states, or by conventions in three-fourths of the states. Change by Custom and Evolution 18 Changing values, expectations, and conditions have influenced constitutional attitudes and practices. Examples include the development of political parties, the pledge of presidential electors to support their partys ticket, and the requirement for representatives to live within their districts. Formal Amendment of the Constitution 19

Article V of the Constitution prescribes the formal amendment procedure. The General Services Administratio n certifies the ratification and keeps tally of the states. Judicial Review Comes to the Supreme Court 20

Marbury v. Madison: The Case of the Undelivered Commissions After the 1800 election, the Federalist Congress authorized 42 new justices of the peace, but some of these appointments were not delivered before the new president (Jefferson) took office. William Marbury asked the Supreme Court to force delivery through a writ of mandamus. Chief Justice Marshall decided that: Marbury was entitled to the job Courts should be allowed to examine the legality of the actions of the head of an executive department A writ of mandamus was not the proper remedy because the Supreme Courts original jurisdiction made no mention of writs of mandamus.

The Significance of Marbury 21 Reaffirmed that officers of the government were bound by law. Declared that laws contrary to the Constitution were not valid. The Court claimed authority to interpret the constitution (judicial review). The Court rejected the states desire to interpret the Constitution as argued in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. Judicial Review and the Framers

22 Some framers expected the Court to exercise judicial review. Much controversy stems from the fact that the Constitution says nothing about how its words are to be interpreted. Marshall saw judicial review as only a modest power.

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