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Influences on the Constitution

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  1. Influences on the Constitution

  2. Feudalism • Royalty: The monarch and his/her family. They ruled the government. • Nobility: These were the Lords and Ladies who held titles such as “earl,” “duke,” or “baron.” They worked for the king. • Common People: This included everyone who was not part of the first two groups. • Knights (soldiers of the king) • Church workers • Serfs (not free—could not leave the area where they lived.)

  3. Feudalism • Under feudalism, the king gave some power to nobles. The king could not rule all of the kingdom by himself, so he had to delegate some of his duties and authority to others. • Eventually, this sharing of power led to a government in which MORE people were represented.

  4. The Magna Carta • In Latin, Magna Carta means “Great Charter.” • The nobility got used to sharing some of the king’s power. When King John I tried to take that away, the nobility got angry. • They forced King John I to sign an agreement with them in 1215—The Magna Carta. • It said the nobles would obey the king as long as he protected their rights.

  5. The Magna Carta • IDEA # 1: The government is based upon a contract between the ruler and the people being ruled. • Most people were left out of this particular agreement, but it was a big step toward establishing the idea that government is a SOCIAL CONTRACT. • This meant both sides of the contract were responsible for fulfilling the terms. • If either side breaks the contract, it is no longer valid. • This same idea was discussed during the Enlightenment by JOHN LOCKE.

  6. The Magna Carta • IDEA # 2: The Magna Carta also included the idea that the law was supreme. Both the people and the government must obey the law. • When we wrote our Constitution, this idea was important. The government and the governed both have the SAME law to obey. • This LIMITS the power of the king/government because it makes them obey established procedures. • If the king broke the law, the nobles had the right to overthrow him. • This was later a big idea as to why we declared independence from England.

  7. PARLIAMENT • The Magna Carta limited the power of the king and made government a social contract.\ • PARLIAMENT gives us the beginnings of representative government and a separation of powers. • In 1258, Parliament was established as a council to the king. • House of Lords • House of Commons (not members of nobility)

  8. PARLIAMENT • The King, Lords, and Commoners struggles for power for hundreds of years. None of them could keep too much power for too long. • Their powers balanced each other. • After a civil war, the king was executed (1649). He tried to take too much power. • When things all settled down, the balance of power shifted to Parliament. • Now, in our government, Congress and the President hold separate powers which offset or balance each other.

  9. The English Bill of Rights • In 1689, Parliament passed an important law which outlined certain rights of the people and further limited the king. • The Bill of Rights gave Parliament the BALANCE OF POWER in the English government.

  10. The English Bill of Rights • The People are guaranteed that: • Elections must be free. • People have the right to keep and carry weapons. • Kings and Queens cannot: • Collect taxes without the permission of Parliament • Interfere with the right to free speech and debate inside Parliament • Maintain an army in time of peace • Require excessive bail or give cruel punishment to those accused of crimes • Declare that Parliament’s laws should be DISOBEYED

  11. END RESULTS • By the end of the 1600s, English government was becoming very limited as to what it could do. • At the same time, the English colonies were forming. • The ideas of limited government, representation, balance of power and separation of powers became a part of colonial life. • Later, they became part of our new national law—The Constitution of the United States

  12. MAYFLOWER COMPACT • As an example of the influence of English government on the colonies, you should look at the Mayflower Compact (1620). • It established self-rule in the colonies from the very beginning.