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The Constitutional Convention. US Politics. Overview. Basic Principles The Organization/Structure of the New Government The Road to Ratification. Constitutional Convention. Virginia Plan (Edmund Randolph)

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  • Basic Principles
  • The Organization/Structure of the New Government
  • The Road to Ratification
constitutional convention
Constitutional Convention
  • Virginia Plan (Edmund Randolph)
    • bicameral legislature, lower house elected by people, upper house elected by lower house from names submitted by state legislatures.
    • seats in both allocated by population size
    • executive chosen by legislature, single term
    • national judiciary, chosen by legislature, life terms
    • national gov sovereign
constitutional convention1
Constitutional Convention
  • New Jersey Plan (William Paterson)
    • unicameral legislature, each state equal
    • legislature regulate trade/commerce and tax states (proportional to population)
    • legislature elects “collegial” executive
    • executive selects national judiciary
    • national gov sovereign
constitutional convention2
Constitutional Convention
  • Connecticut (Great) Compromise (Roger Sherman)
    • bicameral legislature
      • one house based on proportional representaion
      • one house based on state equality
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Constitutional Convention
  • But if one house based on proportional representation, what should serve as basis?
    • geography?
    • wealth?
    • population?
constitutional convention4
Constitutional Convention
  • They settle on population, but that in turn raised the question as to who should count as part of the population
  • In particular, should slaves count as part of a state’s population?
constitutional convention5
Constitutional Convention

Convention works out a compromise, whereby each slave counts as 3/5ths of a free person

basic principles
Basic Principles
  • Three guiding principles of the Constitution:
    • Separation of Powers
    • Checks and Balances
    • Federalism
basic principles1
Basic Principles
  • Separation of Powers:
    • The division of the national government into three distinct branches corresponding to the basic functions of government:
      • Legislature (make laws)
      • Executive (administer the laws)
      • Judiciary (interpret and enforce the laws)
basic principles2
Basic Principles
  • Checks and Balances
    • Powers/Responsibilities given to one branch of government are offset by powers delegated to another branch.
      • e.g., Congress may pass a bill, but it doesn’t become law until the President signs it.
      • President can veto legislation, but Congress can override the veto
basic principles3
Basic Principles
  • Federalism
    • Shared power relations between the national government and the states
    • An attempt to forge a path between the strong central government of a unitary model and the weakened central government of a confederation
basic features of the constitution
Basic features of the Constitution
  • Creates bicameral legislature (Congress)
    • People elect the House of Representatives
    • State legislatures elect Senators
  • Creates independent executive (President)
    • Chosen by the Electoral College
  • Creates national judiciary (Supreme Court)
    • Nominated by President; Confirmed by Senate
structure organization
  • Legislature: Congress
    • bicameral (2 houses)
      • House of Representatives
        • based on population; the more people in the state, the more representatives it receives
      • Senate
        • each state equal representation
        • 2 senators per state, each senator receives one vote
          • contrast with Articles where each state delegation had a single vote
structure organization1
  • Executive
    • President
    • Vice President
    • Cabinet
    • Executive Agencies
structure organization2
  • Judiciary
    • Supreme Court
    • Other federal courts

created by Congress

basic features of the constitution1
Basic features of the Constitution
  • Power concentrated at the national level
    • “Supremacy” Clause (Article 6)
  • New Powers (most are given to Congress)
    • Power to levy/collect taxes
    • Regulate interstate commerce
    • Raise and maintain a standing army
    • enact all laws “necessary and proper”
amending the constitution
Amending the Constitution
  • Two primary means for amending the constitution:
    • Formal
      • actual changes in language of Constitution through addition or deletion)
    • Informal
      • changes in ways in which we interpret the language of the Constitution
amending the constitution1

2/3rds vote of both houses of Congress

National Convention called by 2/3rds of states


Legislatures of 3/4ths of states

By conventions in 3/4ths of the states

Amending the Constitution
amending the constitution2
Amending the Constitution
  • Informal method
    • Supreme Court reinterprets language of the Constitution
      • “Judicial Review”
      • Marbury v. Madison (1803)
constitution today
Constitution Today
  • Includes Amendments
  • Significant changes:
    • Bill of Rights (1st through 10th Amendments)
    • judicial review (Marbury v. Madison)
    • no slavery (13th Amendment)
    • expanded federal power (14th Amendment)
    • expanded voting rights (15th, 19th, 24th, 26th)
    • direct election of senators (17th Amendment)
    • terms limits on president (22nd Amendment)
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Constitutional Convention
  • 17 September 1787 Convention adopts Constitution
  • Sends to the states for ratification (approval)
  • 9 states required to ratify and adopt the Constitution
  • Ratification by special convention in each state
ratification calculations
Ratification Calculations
  • The Constitution would not have been ratified if as few as 14 votes (about 1% of total cast), had changed sides in the debate
  • If 36 votes had changed, a majority of states would have voted against ratification
  • Given that it was so close, and that we think of the Constitution as a great success
  • Why was it so controversial?