The Constitution Brief History 1776--Declaration of Independence Separated the colonies from Great Britain Language drawn heavily from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government 1777--Articles of Confederation States retained independence and sovereignty to govern themselves National power derived from the states Very weak national government Brought the states together during the Revolutionary War, fragmented them after 1787--United States Constitution Corrected many issues within the Articles of Confederation Brought the states together Basic Principles of the Constitution Federal system--a system of government where national and state governments share power. National power is supreme. Government power is derived from the citizens. It is a way to check power with power. What could be or are the downfalls of shared government power? What are the benefits? Basic Principles of the Constitution Separation of powers--Power divided among 3 branches each with their own constitutional independence. Legislative--makes laws Executive--enforces laws Judicial--interprets laws An interdependent relationship exists between the 3 branches rather than a pure separation of power. Checks and balances--powers of each branch could be used to check those of the other 2 branches. This was done to minimize the threat of tyranny from any one branch. Are the 3 branches equal? The Constitution 7 Articles First 3 establish the 3 branches of government Remaining 4 define the relationship between the states and national government and lay out methods of ratifying the Constitution. Article I: The Legislative Branch Sets up the legislative branch and the powers vested to it. Longest section of the Constitution (10 articles) Powers specifically granted or laid out in the Constitution are called enumerated powers. Implied powers are derived from the enumerated powers and the necessary and proper clause of Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution. Necessary and Proper Clause Gives Congress the authority to pass all laws “necessary and proper” to carry out the enumerated (specified) powers in the Constitution; also called the elastic clause. This clause has been the source of congressional activity in areas such as regulation of the environment, welfare programs, education, and communication. These areas are not enumerated (specified) to Congress within the Constitution. Article II: The Executive Branch Vests authority to execute laws to the president Section 1: sets term of office to 4 years and explains the Electoral College Section 2: sets out powers and duties of the president Section 3: instructs the president to report directly to Congress from “time to time” in a State of the Union address Section 4: provides a mechanism of removal of president, vice president, or other federal officers for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” Article III: The Judicial Branch Establishes a Supreme Court and defines its jurisdiction Provides for state courts and the national court system to exist side by side with distinct areas of authority. Federal courts decide cases arising under federal law and the U.S. constitution. Supreme Court authority to settle disputes between states, or between a state and the national government Up to the Supreme Court to determine what the provisions of the Constitution actually mean Articles IV-VII Article IV: The States Full faith and credit clause--mandates states honor the laws and judicial proceedings of other states (Ex. state driver’s licenses, marriage licenses) Article V: Amendments Specifies how amendments can be added to the Constitution. Articles IV-VII Article VI: Asserts the supremacy of the Constitution and national law over state laws and constitutions Supremacy clause--all national and state officers and judges are bound by national law and take oaths to support the federal Constitution above any state law or constitution. Any legitimate action exercise of national power supersedes any state laws or actions. Without supremacy clause the national government would have little actual enforceable power. Article VII: Ratification Concerns the procedures for ratifying the new Constitution. 9 of 13 states would have to agree to, or ratify, the Constitution to make it the supreme law of the land. Ratifying the Constitution Getting the Constitution ratified by all states was not an easy process. Debates between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists went on from the fall of 1787 to the summer of 1788. Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists Federalists: Anti-Federalists Mainly wealthy merchants, lawyers, and bankers Largely elitist. They saw themselves and those in their class as most fit to govern They favored a powerful central government; a 2 house legislature They generally distrusted “the people.” What correlation do you see to today’s political parties? Mainly small farmers, shopkeepers, and laborers Believed in the decency of “the common man”; viewed elites as corrupt;sought greater protection of individual rights. Wanted stronger state governments (closer to the people) at the expense of the powers of the national government. Sought smaller electoral districts and a unicameral legislature to provide for greater class and occupational representation. The Federalist Papers A series of 85 political essays written between Oct. 1787 and May 1788 by Alexander Hamilton (51), James Madison (29), and John Jay (5) in support of the ratification of the Constitution. They appeared in New York newspapers written under the pen name Publius (Latin for “the people”). Today they are seen as great works but at the time they would’ve been too theoretical for those who would ultimately vote. The essays highlighted the new government’s structure and its benefits. Anti-Federalists responded in their own series of essays under the pen names Brutus and Cato. They took a line by line critique of the Constitution. Arguing a strong central government would render the states powerless. They argued for a bill or rights to protect the liberties of the people. Bill of Rights The first order of business for the 1st Congress (1789) was the Bill of Rights. When Congress convened they immediately sent a set of amendments to the states for ratification. These first 10 amendments to the Constitution offer numerous specific limitations on the national government’s ability to interfere with a wide variety of personal liberties. Bill of Rights 1st amendment offers protection for the freedom of expression, speech, press, religion, and assembly. Many safeguards for those accused of crimes. 9th amendment: these enumerated, or specified, rights are not the only rights to be enjoyed by the people. 10th amendment: powers not given to the national government are reserved by the states or the people. Amending the Constitution 2 stage process: proposal and ratification Proposal: A vote of ⅔ of the members in both chambers of Congress. A vote of ⅔ of the state legislatures specifically requesting Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments (never been used). Ratification: A favorable vote in ¾ of state legislatures A favorable vote in specifically called ratifying conventions in ¾ of the states (Only used once on the 21st amendment to repeal the 18th amendment on the prohibition of alcohol) Amending the Constitution The speed at which amendments take place depends on the nature of the changes proposed. 18th amendment--10 months to ratification Equal Rights Act introduced in every session of Congress from 1923-1972, when Congress finally voted favorably for it. By 1982, the congressionally mandated date for ratification, only 35 states, 3 short of the number required, voted favorably on the amendment. It continues to be reintroduced in every session. Informal Methods of Amending Judicial interpretation, social and cultural change, and technological change The vagueness of the Constitution has left interpretation of the document open to a changing society. This has allowed to Constitution to be flexible and adapt to cultural and societal changes thus increasing its longevity. Do you think the Framers intended the Constitution to be flexible and open to interpretation?