The American Constitution
1) Some Historical Remarks
There were 13 English colonies: The Colony of Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
In 1776, those colonies declared their independence with a Declaration of Independence written byThomas Jefferson. The British didn’t agree and started a war. 1783: End of the War: 13 independent states. The flag with 13 stripes was created. They also created a Government that had a lot of responsibilities but almost no power.
Power of Congress: Responsibility of the Foreign Relations (Question of War & Peace)
Responsibility of the Postal Service
Responsibility of the Coinage $Responsibility of Indian Affairs
Responsibility for the Western Territories
But there was a huge problem: Very little authority to carry those responsibilities out. (No power to force the citizens or the states to respect its resolutions. No power to raise money. [Money came from voluntary contributions from the States] Congress was poor) There was no executive branch. Nopresidential power. No federal Court of Justice.
Why?! The colonies had wanted to create something new but they had not wanted to create a new despotic power over themselves. However it soon became obvious that the system called “The Articles of the Confederation”, that had been created in 1781, didn’t work because the Congress of the Confederation, in which each state had one vote, didn’t work.
In1787, a convention was created to improve the “Articles of the Confederation”, to save the Union. However, they saw it was too complicated and so they created completely new system. It took them 4 months and to be effective, the new constitution had to be ratified by 9 states. It happened on the 21st of June 1788. It could become effective and the Constitution became valid on the 2nd of July 1788.They needed a president and elected George Washington, who became the 1st American President. In May 1790, all the States had ratified the Constitution.
2) General Principles and fears of the Founding Fathers
a. General Principles
55 farmers, lawyers, soldiers, bankers, businessmen. They mostly belonged to the Middle Class. [George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton,Benjamin Franklin…] Thomas Jefferson was not there when the Constitution had been written: He was the American ambassador in France. The General Principles means that they had the same ideas: First, they wanted to create a federal system. (It meant power was to be divided between the different states) Above the states there was to be a federal govt. They were fed up with the British King (despoticsystem), and they decided to create a Republican Govt (The Fed govt gets its power from the people through elections and it’s responsible to the people). In their minds, they wanted to create a democracy where everybody (men) takes part in the process of electing public officers (mayor, sheriffs…)
b. The Fears
They were afraid of political power in general. They knew that political powercould be dangerous if it was badly used. That’s why they didn’t really trust professional politicians. At the same time, they didn’t trust the people (working class). The result of this fear appears in the Constitution. The poor would be able to express themselves in the Govt. They had the right to be protected from exploitation. They made sure that the majority could not rob the rich of theirproperties. A sacred right of property was established (without safe property a nation cannot survive). They try to make sure that no single section (North/South) would dominate the other. They make sure none of the 3 powers (executive, legislative and judiciary) would be able to dominate the others. To do that, in the Constitution, they created the system of checks and balances between the 3 powers...
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