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American Government and Politics Today


American Government and Politics Today Chapter 2 The Constitution – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: American Government and Politics Today

American Government and Politics Today
  • Chapter 2
  • The Constitution

The Colonial Background
  • Separatists were dissatisfied with the Church of
    England and sought a place where they could
    practice their religious beliefs.
  • The compact they formed set forth the idea of
    consent of the governed.
  • Most governmental actions that affected the
    people were made within the colony.
  • Each colony was separate with its own
    decision-making government.

British Restrictions and Colonial Grievances
  • In 1763 the British Parliament began to pass laws
    that treated the colonies as a unit. The major
    reason for these laws was to raise revenue to
    help pay off the war debt incurred during the
    French and Indian Wars (1756-1763).

First Continental Congress
  • The focus was to restore the political structure
    that was in existence before the passage of
    legislation affecting the internal operations of
    each colony by Parliament.
  • Had the Crown and Parliament relented on many of
    their demands it is possible the Declaration of
    Independence would never have been issued.

Second Continental Congress
  • Established an army.
  • Made Washington the general in chief and pursued
    the Revolutionary War.

The Declaration of Independence
  • Natural Rights
  • Natural rights life, liberty, and the pursuit of
  • Social Contract
  • Based on the idea of consent of the governed, and
    that governments had the responsibility to
    protect the natural rights of its citizens. If
    the government failed to do so, the people had
    the right to revolt.

The Rise of Republicanism
  • Republicanism vs. The Republican Party
  • While republicans were opposed to rule by the
    British, they were also opposed to rule by any
    central authority. They were even skeptical of a
    permanent union of the states.
  • Each state was seen as the sovereign authority
    and the only legitimate ruling force.

The Articles of Confederation Our First Form of
  • States retained most of the power and the central
    government had a very limited role in the
    governing process. The loyalty most citizens had
    was to their state first and foremost.

  • The Confederal Government Structure Under the
    Articles of Confederation

Accomplishments Under the Articles
  • The primary reason for the establishment of the
    Articles was to organize the states so they could
    defeat the British forces and gain independence
    from Britain. Once independence was granted there
    was less pressure on the states to organize for
    the collective good.

Weaknesses of the Articles
  • With the creation of the Articles remained the
    lack of a strong central authority to resolve
    disputes between the states. To organize the
    states for the collective good, including the
    organization of a militia, was crucial to the
    development of the Constitutional Convention.
  • Events such as Shays Rebellion convinced many
    political leaders of the need for a stronger
    central government.

Questions for Critical Thinking
  • Why did the British place restrictions on the
  • How was the term people, as used in the
    Declaration of Independence, defined?

Framers of the Constitution
  • Republicans opposed any centralization of power.
  • Federalists favored a stronger government.
    However, there was no agreement among the
    Federalists concerning the structure and division
    of power for this new government.

Factions Among Delegates
  • The beliefs of the delegates ranged from the
    near-monarchism of Hamilton to definite
    decentralized republicanism. Some of these last
    people left when they saw the federalist tenor of
    the proceedings.

Politicking and CompromisesThe Virginia Plan
  • Concentrated power in a lower house that was to
    choose the executive.
  • Major weakness representation was strictly by
    population, to the disadvantage of the small

Politicking and CompromisesThe New Jersey Plan
  • A one-state, one vote plan that would have
    created a relatively weak central government.
    Again, the executive was to be elected by the

Politicking and Compromises The Great Compromise
  • Compromise between more populous states, which
    advocated representation based on population and
    the small states, which advocated representation
    equal for each state.
  • Also known as the Connecticut Plan, this provided
    for a bicameral legislature with one house based
    on population, the other with equal
    representation for each state. In this plan,
    Congress did not choose the president.

Politicking and Compromises The Three-Fifths
  • Northern states wanted to ban the importation of
    slaves, while Southern states did not. Southern
    states wanted slaves counted in the population
    for the purposes of determining the number of
    members each state sent to the House of
    Representatives. The Three-Fifths Compromise
    provided that 3/5 of the slaves would be counted
    (or each slave would count as 3/5 of a person.)

Working Toward the Final Agreement
  • The Madisonian Model
  • Separation of Powers. The legislative, executive,
    and judicial powers to be independent of each
  • Checks and Balances. Government had considerably
    more power than under the Articles of
    Confederation. However, these men were
    distrustful of those who would hold this power
    and of the people who would select the
    governmental officials.

Working Toward the Final Agreement (cont.)
  • An Electoral College meant that the president was
    not to be chosen by Congress, but not by a
    popular vote either.

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The Final Document
  • A summary of the results popular sovereignty, a
    republican government, a limited government,
    separation of powers, and a federal system where
    both the national and the state governments each
    had their own sphere of influence.

  • The Federalist Papers
  • An attempt to persuade the public to support the
    new form of government.
  • Federalist 10 and Federalist 51 provide an
    excellent view of James Madisons political
    theory concerning human nature.

The March to the Finish
  • The vote by the Virginia ratification convention
    was essential and somewhat close.
  • The New York vote was even closer and put the
    Constitution over the top.
  • At this point, North Carolina and Rhode Island
    had little choice but to join.

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Support for the New Constitution
  • Beards Thesis. Historian Charles Beard argued
    that the Constitution was put through by an
    undemocratic elite intent on the protection of
  • State Ratifying Conventions. These conventions
    were elected by a strikingly small part of the
    total population.
  • Support Was Probably Widespread. Still, the
    defense of property was a value that was by no
    means limited to the elite. The belief that the
    government under the Articles was dangerously
    weak was widespread.

The Bill of Rights
  • A Bill of Limits. The package was assembled by
    Madison, who culled through almost two hundred
    state suggestions.
  • No explicit limits on state government powers.
  • Did not apply to state governments. The
    restrictions only were applicable to the national
    government until the 14th amendment incorporated
    some of these rights.

The Formal Amendment Process
  • Every government needs to be able to cope with
    any new and unforeseen problem. Any
    Constitutional change should, however, be taken
    on with extreme caution. If the process to amend
    the Constitution is rigorous, there should be
    ample time to consider the merits of such a

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Amending the Constitution
  • Although 11,000 amendments have been considered
    by Congress, only 33 have been submitted to the
    states after being approved, and only 27 have
    been ratified since 1789.
  • Recent amendments have usually been accompanied
    by time limits for ratification.
  • The National Convention Provision. Such a
    convention could be called and could rewrite the
    entire Constitution. The product of such a
    convention, however, would have to be ratified by
    the states in the same way as any amendment.

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Informal Methods of Constitutional Change
  • Congressional Legislation
  • Presidential Action
  • Judicial Review
  • Interpretation, Custom, and Usage

Questions for Critical Thinking
  • Did the members of the Second Continental
    Congress mean all people? What about the rights
    of women? Native Americans? Slaves
  • What would have occurred if one or more of the
    states had rejected the Constitution? Could a
    single state have managed to survive outside the
    union of states?
  • What do you believe Madison would think about
    interest groups in modern society?