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The Constitution . The Problem with Liberty Most American colonists believed that their liberties were being taken away from them by England The right to take court cases to a judge not supported by the king No Quartering of Troops Taxation without Representation

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The constitution
The Constitution

  • The Problem with Liberty

    • Most American colonists believed that their liberties were being taken away from them by England

      • The right to take court cases to a judge not supported by the king

      • No Quartering of Troops

      • Taxation without Representation

        Most colonists lost faith in the unwritten constitution of the English claiming that political power was being abused

The problem of liberty
The Problem of Liberty

  • Colonists believed that English politicians tended to be corrupt since they seemed to desire power

    • The colonists desired protected liberties based on “higher law” that embodied “natural rights,” such as those of life, liberty, and property, that were given by God

    • By property, they meant the idea of being able to move up in life, of being capable of improving.

Problem of liberty
Problem of Liberty

  • The Declaration of Independence not only listed man “natural rights”, but also listed 27 complaints against King George III.

  • Radical Change in principals “ real Revolution”

    • (1) Human liberty exists before government organization, and is the number ONE priority;

    • (2) The legislative branch of the government represents the people and should be more powerful than the executive branch;

    • (3) Only a written constitution could allow political power to be recognized.

The problem of liberty1
The Problem of Liberty

  • 1781 Articles of Confederation went into effect, creating a confederation, NOT a country.

    • Created a national congress with each state getting one vote

    • Each state got its own sovereignty

    • 9 out of the 13 states were needed to pass anything through legislation

Powers of congress under the articles
Powers of Congress under the Articles

  • 1. Make Peace

  • 2. Coin Money

  • 3. Run the post office

  • 4. Appoint key military officers

    Things Congress could not do under the Articles

  • Could not settle matters between states

  • Could not tax

    3. Could not raise an effective military

Constitutional convention
Constitutional Convention

  • Events like Shay’s Rebellion and the lack of attendance at the Annapolis Convention sparked the talks of a stronger federal government.

  • 55 men, called Framers, were sent to Philadelphia in May of 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation

  • Problem was trying to find a government that did not crumble from the inside because it was too weak, but not having a government that was too strong that it trampled people’s liberties.

State constitution
State Constitution

  • Pennsylvania had the most radically democratic state constitution, in which all power was given to a unicameral legislature, where members served one-year terms and could not serve more than four years, and where there was no governor or president;

  • Massachusetts had a clear separation of powers, and both voters and office holders had to be property holders.

Constitutional convention1
Constitutional Convention

  • When the 55 framers arrived in Philadelphia they decided to write a new government and not revise the Articles.

  • They all seemed influenced by Thomas Locke’s ideas of “ state of nature” were all men were created equal but gave up rights to the government for the well being of the majority

  • Democracy was the idea, but not a rule by mob, a republic was the solution.

Virginia plan
Virginia Plan

  • The Virginia Plan called for a strong national union organized into three branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial.

  • 1. There were to be two houses—the first chosen by the people and the second chosen by members of the first—and the executive was to be chosen by the national legislature. (number of representatives would be based on population)

  • 2. The executive and some members of the judiciary could veto acts of legislature, but such vetoes could be overruled by the legislature.

  • 3. The national legislature would have supreme powers on all matters on which the separate states could not handle and could veto state law.

New jersey plan
New Jersey Plan

  • New Jersey Plan

  • 1. It enhanced the power of the national government (though not as much as the Virginia Plan did), it wanted one house in Legislation with each state getting one vote no matter their size in population

  • 2. Proposed after the Virginia Plan, it was not as favored as the first, and after much debating, the committee remained deadlocked.

The great compromise
The Great Compromise

  • 1. The House of Representatives would consist of about 65 members, be elected by the people, and be apportioned according to state population.

  • 2 .The Senate would consist of two senators from each state; each senator would be chosen by state legislatures.

The great compromise1
The Great Compromise

  • Delegates could not agree on whether the president should be chosen by the people or by Congress, they came up with the idea of creating an Electoral College that would choose the president.

  • They also compromised and set the presidential term at four years, without restrictions on re-election and agreed to let Supreme Court justices be picked by the president and approved by the Senate.

  • On September 17, all twelve states (but not all the delegates) approved this new constitution.

Limited government
Limited Government

  • The power of the Supreme Court to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional

  • Federalism describes a political authority divided between a national and several state governments.

  • Federalism was good because states and the central government checked each other, thus eliminating the strength that any factions, or political groups, might have.

Federalists vs antifederalists
Federalists vs. Antifederalists

  • Supporters of the Constitution and its strong central government called themselves Federalists, while those more in favor of states’ rights were called Antifederalists.

  • The framers of the Constitution devised it so that the Constitution could be passed by special state conventions (where the people had direct says), rather than in state legislatures (where it was more likely to be rejected by politicians fearing loss of power).


  • Antifederalists’ main issue was liberty, not democracy, and they argued that a strong central government would be distant from the people and could take over powers belonging to states.

  • Congress could tax heavily, the Supreme Court could overrule state courts, and the President could head a large standing army, which was too tyrannical in their views.

  • Antifederalists proposed limiting the national government by checking the president’s power, leaving military affairs to state militias, increasing the size of the House of Representatives, and reducing or eliminating Congress’s tax levying powers.


  • James Madison’s answer to them came in the form of Federalist papers 10 and 51, in which he argued that the checks and balances would help and that liberty was safest in large republics, in which anyone could have support, even rebels who went against the norm.

  • Basically, Madison was arguing that if people could be corrupted by office, they could also be corrupted by factional self-interests, and that was a radical argument in 1787.


  • people believed that there would have to be a strong Government if the United States was to survive foreign attacks, facilitate trade among the states, and keep one faction from oppressing another.

No bill of rights
No Bill of Rights

  • Perhaps the framers of the Constitution didn’t add a bill of rights because there were already numerous protections of liberty included in the Constitution:

  • Writ of habeas corpus (meaning you can’t hold a person in jail without a reason) could not be suspended except in invasion or rebellion.

  • No bill of attainder (declaring a person guilty without trying him in a trial) could be passed by Congress or the states.

  • No ex post facto law (arresting someone for breaking a new law a month that wasn’t law a month ago) could be passed by Congress or the states.

No bill of rights1
No Bill of Rights

  • Right by trial by jury in criminal cases was guaranteed.

  • The citizens of each state were entitled to the privileges and immunities of the citizens of every other state.

  • No religious test or qualification for holding federal office could be imposed.

  • No law impairing the obligation of contracts could be passed by states.

Bill of rights
Bill of Rights

  • In any case, it soon became clear that a bill of rights was needed; many states approved the Constitution only after a bill of rights was promised, and even then, they passed it after much debate.

  • James Madison finally introduced a set of proposals, mostly based on the Virginia bill of rights, to Congress, which passed twelve of them; ten of those twelve were passed by the states and went into effect as the first ten amendments, or the Bill of Rights, in 1791.

Issue of slavery
Issue of Slavery

  • Actually, there was some effort made into eliminating slavery in the Constitution, but the Framers decided that this would undoubtedly cause the southern states to reject the Constitution

  • Another compromise with slavery was the 3/5 Compromise, which counted slaves as 3/5 of people when determining House representation.

Ratifying the constitution
Ratifying the Constitution

  • Delaware was the first state to ratify the constitution on June 21, 1788.

  • Virginia would only ratify the constitution with a agreement of a Bill of Rights to be added later

  • The Constitution was approved finally on April 6th of 1789.

  • At this meeting everyone there agreed to appoint George Washington the President of the United States.

  • He did not want the position but finally took the position on April 30th 1789 and became the first President of the United States