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The Constitution: The Colonial Mind a. British corrupt b. N atural rights- life, liberty, property c. A war of ideology, not economics d. Specific complaints against King George III The Real Revolution a . change in belief about what made authority legitimate

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The Constitution:

The Colonial Mind

a. British corrupt

b. Natural rights- life, liberty, property

c. A war of ideology, not economics

d. Specific complaints against King George III

The Real Revolution

a. change in belief about what made authority legitimate

b. government by consent, not prerogative

c. direct grant of power- written Constitution

d. human liberty before government

e. legislature superior to executive branch


III. Weaknesses of Articles of Confederation

a. could not levy taxes or regulate commerce

b. Sovereignty, independence retained by states

c. one vote per state in congress

d. nine of thirteen votes in congress required

e. delegates picked and paid by state legislatures

f. little money coined by congress

g. Army small, dependent on state militias

h. territorial disputes between states

i. no national judicial system

J. All thirteen states’ consent for amendments


III. The Constitutional Convention

a. the lessons of experience- state constitutions

1. Pennsylvania, too strong, too democratic

2. Massachusetts, too weak, less democratic

Shay’s Rebellion led to fear the states were about to collapse

b. The framers

1. who came- men of practical affairs

2. who did not come TJ, JA, PH, SA

3. intent to write new constitution

4. Lockean, Hobbes, Montesquieu ideals

5. doubts that popular consent could guarantee liberty

6. a delicate problem, need strong govt. for order, but one that would not threaten liberty


IV. The Challenge

a. Virginia Plan

-two house legislature, executive chosen by legislature, council of revision with veto power, national legislature with supreme powers, one house elected directly by the people. Representation based on population!

b. New Jersey Plan

-amend rather than replace articles, one vote per state, protection of small states’ interests

c. The Great Compromise

-House of Representatives based on population

- Senate of two members per state

-reconciled interests of small and large states


The Constitution and Democracy

A. Founders did not intend to create a pure democracy

-physical impossibility in large country

-mistrust of popular passions

-intent instead to create a republic with a system of representation

B. Popular rule only one element of the new govt.

-state legislators to elect senators

-electors to chose president

-two kinds of majorities- voters and states

-judicial review another limitation

-amendment process

c. Key Principles

-separation of powers


-resulting powers

enumerated- fed, reserved-state, concurrent-both

-federalism enables one level of government to act as a check on the other


D. The Anti-Federalist view

-liberty could only be secured in small republics

-big republics-distant

-strong national govt. could use its powers to annihilate state functions

-there should be many restrictions on government

Madison’s response- personal liberty safest in large republics, coalitions likely to be more moderate, and government should be somewhat distant to the passions of the people.

-no bill of rights- states’ responsibility, need to limit federal govt.

Why did we need a bill of rights?

-ratification impossible without one

-promise by key leaders to get one


VI. The Motives of the Framers

A. Acted out of a mixture of motives- mostly liberty

-Economic interests played a modest role

-those who held government debt supported Constitution

-state considerations outweighed personal considerations except when it came to slavery (left out of the Constitution, except for representation- 2/3’s compromise)

B. Economic interests and ratification

-played larger role at state ratifying conventions

-in favor: merchants, urbanites, owners of Western land, holders of govt. debt, non-slave owners

-opposed: farmers, people who held no IOU’s, slave owners

C. Critics say framers more concerned with political inequality, bows to special interests, liberty and equality are therefore in conflict

*Very democratic process because most could vote for delegates

*Federalists versus Anti-federalists on ideas of liberty


VII. Constitutional Reform?

  • reducing the separation of powers to enhance national leadership
  • Urgent problems going unresolved
  • President should be more powerful, accountable
  • Govt. agencies exposed to too much undue interference- red tape
  • Proposals:
  • -choose cabinet members from Congress
  • -allow president to dissolve Congress
  • -empower Congress to require special presidential election
  • -Require presidential/congressional terms
  • -establish single six year term for president
  • -lengthen term in the House to four years
  • Better or Worse?

B. Make the system less democratic

-govt. does too much, not too little

-attention to individual wants over general preferences


-limit amount of taxes collectible

-require a balanced budget

-grant president a true line item veto (held by most governors)

-narrow authority of federal courts

Better or Worse?

Who is right? Crucial questions:

-How well has it worked in history?

-How well has it worked in comparison with other constitutions?