AP Government: Chapter II Notes: The Constitution A Constitution is a nation’s basic law.

It creates political institutions, allocates power within the governments, and often provides guarantees to citizens. A constitution is also an unwritten accumulation of traditions and precedents that have established acceptable styles of behavior and policy outcomes. I. The Origins of the Constitution The attempt to overthrow a government forcibly is a serious and unusual act. It is considered treasonous everywhere. Typically, it is punishable by death. A. The Road to Revolution 1. White colonists “were freer, more equal, more prosperous and less burdened with cumbersome feudal and monarchical restraints than any other part of mankind” with the exception of slaves and indentured servants 2. The king and Parliament only controlled the aspects of American foreign policy and trade. Everything else was left to the discretion of the colonial governments. 3. The cost for the French and Indian War (the Seven Years’ War) and the defense of the newly acquired territory led Parliament to tax the primary beneficiaries (the colonists); they raised revenue through: a. Taxes on paper, official documents, newspapers, tea …etc. b. The tightening of enforcement on trade regulations, which benefited only the mother country 4. Colonists resented because they lacked direct representation in Parliament. Colonists: a. Boycotted the taxed goods b. Protested c. Responded to the closing off of Boston Harbor by forming the First Continental Congress in 1774 B. Declaring Independence 1. In 1776, the Congress began debating resolutions about independence 2. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia moved “that these United states are and of right ought to be free and independent states.” 3. A committee formed to draft a document to justify the inevitable declaration: a. Thomas Jefferson- was the primary writer to the Declaration of Independence b. John Adams c. Benjamin Franklin d. Roger Sherman e. Robert Livingston 4. The Declaration of Independence a. Politically, the Declaration was a polemic, announcing and justifying a revolution. 1) 27 out of 32 of its paragraphs lists the wrongdoings of the King 2) Politically important because the colonists needed foreign assistance b. The Declaration of Independence is studied as a statement of philosophy 1) Jefferson set forth the American democratic creed C. The English Heritage: The Power of Ideas 1. John Locke was one of the most influential philosophers read by the colonists: a. The Second Treatise, Of Civil Government (1689) 1) His work was “the dominant political faith of the American colonies in the second quarter of the eighteenth century. b. The foundation upon which Locke built his powerful philosophy was a belief in natural rights not dependent on governments c. Before governments arise, people exist in a state of Nature which there are no formal laws or governments 1) Laws were determined by people’s innate moral sense 2) Natural laws bring natural rights which include life, liberty and property 3) Natural law can even justify the rule of a tyrannical 4) Government must be built on the consent of the governed—people must agree on who their rulers will be 5) Limited government: there must be clear restrictions on what rulers can do 6) The sole purpose of government was to protect natural rights; there are certain things beyond the realm of government


d. Locke believed in two limits of government: 1) Government must provide standing laws so that people know what acts are acceptable 2) “…the supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his consent,” and “the preservation of property was the end of government” a) One of the ideas absent from Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence b) “Life, liberty, and property”  “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” c) James Madison echoed Locke’s view of the preservation of property as the primary purpose of government in the Constitutional Convention 3) Locke believed that people had the right to revolt against a government that no longer has their consent. D. Jefferson’s Handiwork: The American Creed 1. The parallels between Jefferson’s and Locke’s Works: Locke “The state of Nature has a law to govern it” “…life, liberty, and property” “to preserve himself, his liberty and property” “men being by nature all free, equal and independent” “for when any number of men have, by the consent of every individual, made a community, with a power to act as one body, which is only by the will and determination of the majority” “Absolute arbitrary power, or governing without settled laws, can neither of them consist with the ends of society and government” “As usurpation is the exercise of power which another has a right to, so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to.” “The people shall be the judge…Oppression raises ferments and makes men struggle to cast off an uneasy and tyrannical yoke.” Declaration of Independence “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” “to secure these rights” “all men are created equal” “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers form the consent of the governed” “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation.”

Natural Rights Purpose of Government Equality Consent of the Governed

Limited Government

Right to Revolt

“Prudence…will dictate that Governments…should not be changed…it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such a government.”

2. Locke represented only one element of revolutionary thought 3. It was the American colonies that provided the powerful ideas of American republicanism— stressing moral virtue, patriotism, relationships based on natural merit and the equality of independent citizens 4. The Declaration of Independence stressed that people should have primacy over governments, that they should rule instead of be ruled. Moreover, each person was important as an individual 5. Consent of the governed, not divine rights or tradition, made the exercise of political power legitimate. E. Winning Independence: this section is not related to government F. The “Conservative” Revolution 1. The American Revolution did not bring about great societal change 2. It was essentially a conservative movement that did not drastically alter the American way of life. 3. The primary goal was to restore rights the colonists felt were already theirs 4. The Revolution did not create class conflicts that would split society for generations to come II. The Government that Failed: 1776-1787 - Articles of Confederation: the first constitution of the US, adopted by Congress in 1777 and enacted in 1781. - The Articles established a national legislature, the Continental congress, but most authority rested with the state A. The Articles of Confederation

1. Government dominated by states in a “league of friendship and perpetual union” 2. National legislature with one house: each state had one vote 3. No president, no national court, and the power of the national legislature, the Congress, was limited a. The Congress had few powers outside maintaining an army and navy b. It had to request money from the states because it did not have the power to tax c. It lacked the power to regulate commerce, which inhibited foreign trade and the development of a strong national economy. d. The government did, however, set up the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which encouraged the development of the Great Lakes region. e. The government could not compel states to do anything and it had no power to deal directly with individual citizens B. Changes in the States 1. The most important change was a dramatic increase in democracy and liberty, at least for White males a. Many states adopted bills of rights to protect freedoms, abolished religious qualifications for holding office and liberalized requirements for voting b. The middle class gained power through expanded political participation c. With expanded voting privileges, farmers and craftsmen became a decisive majority and the old elite saw its power shrink 2. The structure of government in the states became more responsive to the people 3. Power was concentrated in the legislatures because legislators were considered closer to the voters than any other governing official a. Governors were selected by the legislatures b. Legislatures overruled court decisions and criticized judges C. Economic Turmoil 1. At the top o the political agenda were economic issues 2. Post-war debt was a top priority and state legislatures were sympathetic with the debtors a. Some states printed tons of paper money and passed “force acts” requiring reluctant creditors to accept the money b. Few states, such as RI, passed policies favoring debtors over creditors. D. Shay’s Rebellion: A small band of farmers in western Massachusetts rebelled at losing their land to creditors. Daniel Shays led a series of armed attacks on courthouses to prevent judges from foreclosing on farms. The elite were frightened at the thought that people had taken the law into their own hands and violated the property rights of others. Neither congress nor the state was able to raise a militia. E. The Aborted Annapolis Meeting 1. The assembly was an abortive attempt at the reformation of the Articles of Confederation 2. Only five states (NY, NJ, DE, PA, and VA) were represented 3. The twelve delegates issued a call for a full-scale meeting of the states in Philadelphia III. Making a Constitution: The Philadelphia Convention - Every state attended the Philadelphia convention except for Rhode Island - Patrick Henry refused to attend the meeting because he feared the centralization of government powers - The 55 delegates met “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation,” but instead, began writing the US Constitution. A. Gentlemen in Philadelphia: Most were wealthy planters; many were college graduates and most had practical political experience. B. Philosophy in Action - Delegates were a combination of philosophers and shrewd political architects - Everyone agreed on questions of (1) human nature, (2) the causes of political conflict, and (3) the object and (4) nature of a republican government 1. Human Nature a. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (1651): man’s natural state was war and a strong absolute ruler was necessary to restrain man’s bestial tendencies b. Without a strong government, life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” c. The delegates thought that people were self-interested. Franklin and Hamilton both agreed that “men love power.” d. The men at Philadelphia believed that government should play a key role in containing the natural self-interest of people. 2. Political conflict a. “The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property”—James Madison


1) The distribution of wealth is the source of political conflict b. Other sources of conflict included religion, views of governing and attachments to various leaders c. From the sources of conflict came factions. 1) A majority faction might well be composed of the many who have little or no property 2) The minority faction consists of those who have property 3) If left unchecked, one of those factions would eventually tyrannize the other. 4) The majority would seize government to reduce the wealth of the minority; the minority for their own gains 5) The effects of factions had to be checked 3. Objects of Government a. “The preservation of property is the end of government”—John Locke b. As property holders, these delegates could not imagine a government that did not make its principal objective an economic one: the preservation of individual rights to acquire wealth c. “Give the votes to people who have no property, and they will sell them to the rich who will be able to buy them”—Governor Morris of PA 4. Nature of Government a. Power should be set against power, so that no one faction would overwhelm the others b. The secret of good government is “balanced” government, influenced by the writings of Baron Montesquieu, who advocated separate branches of government with distinct powers and the ability to check the other branches. c. A complex network of checks and balances and separation of powers would be required for a balanced government. The Agenda in Philadelphia A. The Equality Issues 1. Equality and Representation of the States a. The New Jersey Plan: proposed by William Paterson; called for each state to be equally represented in the new Congress b. The Virginia Plan: proposed by Edmund Randolph; called for giving each state representation in Congress based on the state’s share of the American population c. The Connecticut Compromise: devised by Roger Sherman and William Johnson; the solution proposed the creation of two houses in Congress 1) The Senate would have two members from each state 2) The House of Representatives would have representation based on population d. Although the Connecticut Compromise was intended to maximize equality between the states, it actually gives more power to people who live in states with small populations 1) Every state has two senators and at least one member in the House 2) Wyoming has less than two percent of California’s population. Thus, a citizen in WY has more than 50 times the representation in the Senate than does a citizen in CA. e. The battle was not over the states wanting to maximize their own representation but between one side favoring equal representation of the states and the other favoring equal representation of the people. 2. Slavery a. The contradictions between slavery and the sentiments of the Declaration were obvious, but slavery was legal in every state except MA. b. The delegates agreed that Congress could limit future importing of slaves (they allowed it to be outlawed after 1808) but they did not forbid slavery. c. The Constitution recognized slaver: it stated that runaway slaves who escaped had to be returned to their owners d. Should slaves be counted towards a state’s population? 1) Southerners wanted slaves to count toward their representation in the House but were reluctant to count them for apportionment of taxation 2) The result was the three-fifths compromise: representation and taxation were based on the “number of free persons” plus three-fifths of the number of “all other persons” 3. Political Equality a. Franklin suggested that national elections should require universal manhood suffrage

b. Franklin’s suggestion was too democratic; the delegates feared future rebellions
and mob rule c. Resolution: Leave it up to the states; people qualified to vote in state elections could also vote in national elections Problem Should states be represented equally or in proportion to their population? Equality of the States What should be done about slavery? Slavery How should slaves be counted for representation in the House? Should the right to vote be based on universal manhood suffrage or should it be restricted? Solution Both, according to the CT Compromise. States have equal representation in the Senate but representation in the house is proportionate by population Congress was permitted to stop the import of slaves in 1808, but the practice of slavery was legal Count each slave as three-fifths of a person. Let the states decide.

Political Equality

B. The Economic Issues 1. Economic issues were the top priority on the policy agenda a. Advocates of the Constitution, the Federalists, stressed the economy’s “weaknesses, especially in the commercial sector” b. Anti-Federalists countered with charges of exaggeration 2. The following problems had to be addressed: a. The states had erected their own tariffs against products from other states b. Paper money was virtually worthless in some states c. The Congress had trouble raising money because the economy was in a recession 3. Merchants, the economic elite, creditors, budding capitalists—all wanted a strong national government to bring economic stability 4. Charles A. Beard, a historian, claimed that the principal motivation for strengthening the economic powers of the new government was to increase their personal wealth. a. The framers were upper-class men wanting to protect their interests b. The delegates held bonds and investments whose value would increase if the Constitution was adopted 5. Evidence indicates that they were concerned about their property rights, but were motivated in the broad sense of building a strong economy 6. Congress was to be the chief economic policy makers—Congress’ power was to create the conditions within which markets could flourish Powers of Congress Levy Taxes Pay debts Borrow money Coin money and regulate its value Regulate interstate and foreign commerce Establish uniform laws of bankruptcy Punish piracy Punish counterfeiting Create standard weights and measures Establish post offices and post roads Economics in the Constitution Prohibitions on the States 1. St ates cannot pass laws impairing the obligations of contract 2. St ates cannot coin money or issue paper money 3. St ates cannot require payment of debts in paper money 4. St ates cannot tax imports or exports from abroad or from other states 5. St ates cannot free runaway Other Key Provisions 1. The new government assumes the national debt contracted under the Articles 2. The Constitution guarantees a republican form of government 3. The states must respect civil court judgments and contracts from other states 4.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

11. Protect copyrights and patents

slaves from other states (now defunct)

7. The Constitution also obligated the new government to repay all the public debts incurred under the Continental Congress and the Articles of confederation a. Paying off debts would ensure that money would flow into the American economy b. It would also restore the confidence of investors in the young nation C. The Individual Rights Issue 1. They dispersed power among the branches of national government and between the national and state governments so that each branch would restrain each other and safeguard individualism and preserve individual rights 2. The various states were already doing a sufficient job of protecting individual rights 3. The protections offered by the Constitution include: a. Prohibits the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus (except in times of war). If no proper explanation is offered for a person’s detention, a judge may order the release of that person b. Prohibits congress or the states from passing bills of attainder (punishing a person without trial) c. Prohibits congress or the states from passing ex post facto laws (which punish people or increase the penalties for acts that were not illegal or not punishable when the act was committed) d. Prohibits the imposition of religious qualifications for holding office in government e. To be convicted of treason, a person must levy war against the US or adhere to aid its enemies during war. Conviction requires confession in open court or the testimonies of two witnesses to the same overt act. f. Right to trial by jury in criminal cases V. The Madisonian Model - Framer’s beliefs: Human nature was self-interested and that inequalities of wealth were the principal source of political conflict - There was no interest to convert private property to common ownersh9ip - Protecting private property was the key purpose of government - The non-wealthy majority would tyrannize the wealthy minority if given power A. Thwarting Tyranny of the Majority 1. James Madison: the principal architect of the government’s final structure a. He feared both majority and minority factions: Either can take control of the government and use it to their own advantage 1) Factions of the minority were easy to handle; the majority could simply out-vote them 2) Factions of the majority were harder to handle. If the majority united around some issues, the could oppress the minority, violating the latter’s rights b. To prevent the possibility of tyranny of the majority: 1) Place as much of the government as possible beyond the direct control of the majority 2) Separate the powers of different institutions 3) Construct a system of checks and balances 2. Limiting Majority Control a. To thwart the tyranny by the majority, it is essential to keep most of the government beyond their power b. The only one element of government within direct control of the votes of the majority is the House (Government authorities are to be elected by a small minority, not by the people themselves) c. If the majority seized control of the House, they still could not enact policies without the agreement of the Senate and president
Four Years


Six Years

3. Separating Powers a. Separation of powers: a feature of the Constitution that requires each of the three branches of government to be relatively independent of the others so that one cannot control the others b. Power is shared among these institutions 4. Creating check and Balances a. Checks and balances reflect Madison’s goal of setting power against power to constrain government actions b. Checks and balances: requires that power be balanced among the institutions; these institutions continually check each other’s activities c. The courts also figured into the system: 1) Marbury vs. Madison—the Supreme Court asserted its power to check the other branches through judicial review: the right to hold actions of the other two branches unconstitutional. 5. Establishing a Federal System: setting up a federal system of government that divided the power of government between a national government and the individual states
Congress approves presidential nominations and controls the budget. It can pass laws over the president’s veto and can impeach the president and remove him from office.

Two Years

The Congress House of Representatives, Senate House and Senate can veto each other’s bills

The President can veto congressional legislation.

The President Executive office of the president; Executive and cabinet department; independent government agencies

The Court can declare laws unconstitutional

The Court can declare presidential acts unconstitutional.

The Senate confirms the president’s nominations. Congress can impeach judges and remove them from office.
The Courts Supreme Court; Courts of appeal; District courts

The president nominates judges


B. The Constitutional Republic 1. Republic: a system based on the consent of the governed in which representatives of the public exercise power 2. The system of checks and balances and separation of powers favors the status quo. Change usually comes slowly, if at all. 3. The Madisonian system encourages moderation and compromise and slows change. C. The End of the Beginning: Only three members refused to sign: a. Elbridge Gerry b. George Mason c. Edmund Randolph Ratifying the Constitution


To go into effect, the Constitution had to be ratified by 9 out of 13 states A. Federalists and Anti-Federalists 1. Federalists and Anti-Federalists information on separate sheet
Backgrounds Anti-Federalists Small farmers, shopkeepers, laborers Strong state government Weak national government Direct election of officials Shorter terms Rules by the common man Strengthened protection of liberties Federalists Large landowners, wealthy merchants, professionals Weaker state government Strong national government Indirect election of officials Longer terms Government by the elite Less concern for individual liberties

Government Preferred


2. Bill of Rights: the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, drafted in response to some of the Anti-Federalist concerns. These amendments define such basic liberties… B. Ratification: Read it yourself…it’s short. Constitutional Change A. The Formal Amending Process 1. The most explicit means of change; Article V outlines the procedures for formal amendment 2. There are two stages to the amendment process—proposal and ratification a. An amendment may be proposed either by a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress or by a national convention called by Congress at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures b. An amendment can be ratified either by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states or by special state conventions called in three-fourths of the state 3. All but one of the amendments (the Twenty-first) have been proposed by Congress and ratified by the state legislatures. 4. Formal amendments have made the constitution more egalitarian and democratic 5. The emphasis on economic issues is now balanced by amendments that emphasize and increase the ability of a popular majority to affect government 6. Only one existing amendment specifically addresses the economy—the Sixteenth (income tax) 7. Some amendments have been proposed but not ratified: a. ERA- Equal Rights Amendment: “Equality of rights under law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” b. Proposed in 1923, passed by Congress in 1972, never ratified—failed because of system of checks and balances B. The Informal Process of Constitutional Change 1. None of the following are “unconstitutional”—they all emerged without having to tinker with the Framer’s handiwork. These developments could occur because they were informal. There are several ways in which the Constitution changes informally: through judicial interpretation, through political practice, changes in demands of policymakers a. The United States has the world’s oldest two-party system b. Abortions through the second trimester are legal c. Members of the Electoral College consider themselves honor bound to follow the preference of their state’s electorates d. Proceedings of the House and senate are on TV e. Government now taxes and spends about 1/3 of the GDP 2. Judicial Interpretation a. Judicial review: this power gives courts the right to decide constitutionality b. Judicial interpretation can profoundly affect how the Constitution is understood because the Constitution usually means what the Supreme Court says it means 3. Changing political practice a. The introduction of the two political parties b. Alteration of the role of the Electoral College 1) Before, state legislatures would select wise electors who would then choose an able character for president; 2) Each state would have the same number of electors to vote for president as senators and representatives in Congress 3) 1796, they all cast votes for 13 different candidates—to avoid dissipating their support, the parties required electors to pledge to vote for the candidate of their state’s popular vote 4) Electors retain only clerical functions



The idea that the Electoral College would exercise wisdom independent of the majority is now a constitutional anachronism, changed by political practice 4. Technology: time led to the advancement of technology…etc. 5. Increasing demands on policymakers a. The president takes the lead in foreign affairs b. The president plays a more prominent role in preparing the federal budget and legislative program C. The Importance of Flexibility 1. The document the framers produced was not meant to be static; instead, the Constitution’s authors created a flexible system of government, one that can adapt to the needs of the times without sacrificing personal freedoms 2. The flexibility ensures the Constitution’s survival Understanding the Constitution A. The Constitution and Democracy 1. The Constitution is a paradox: the framers wanted no democratic society where the majority ruled—only the able should be allowed to participate in government 2. The Constitution created a republic government 3. Gradual democratization of the Constitution—expanded voting rights as shows in 5 out of the 17 amendments to the Constitution reflect the expansion of the electorate. B. The Constitution and the Scope of Government 1. Many of the rules in the Constitution limit government action. This limiting function is what the Bill of Rights and related provisions of the Constitution are about. 2. Many of these limitations were designed to protect liberty and to open the system to a broad range of participants. The potential range of action is quite wide. 3. The system created by the constitution has profound implications for what government does. For one, individualism is reinforced. 4. On the other hand, the Constitution encourages hyperpluralism. The Founders created a system of policymaking in which it is difficult for the government to act. The separation of powers and the system of checks and balances promote the politics of bargaining, compromise, and playing one institution against another. The system implies that one institution checks another. 5. Radical departures from the status quo are atypical in American politics Summary The year 1787 was crucial in building the American nation. The 55 men who met in Philadelphia created a policymaking system that responded to a complex policy agenda. Critical conflicts over equality led to key compromises in the New Jersey and Virginia Plans, the three-fifths compromise on slavery, and the decision to leave the issue of voting rights to the states. There was more consensus, however, about the economy. These merchants, lawyers, and large landowners believed that the American economy was in shambles, and they intended to make the national government an economic stabilizer. The specificity of the powers assigned to Congress left no doubt that Congress was to forge national economic policy. The delegates knew, too, that the global posture of the fledging nation was pitifully weak. A strong national government would be better able to ensure its own security and that of the nation. Madison and his colleagues were less clear about the protection of individual rights. Because they believed that the limited government they had constructed would protect freedom, they said little about individual rights in the constitution. However, the ratification struggle revealed that protection of personal freedoms was much on the public’s mind. As a result, the Bill of Rights was proposed. These first 10 amendments to the Constitution, along with the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, provide Americans with protection form governmental restraints on individual freedoms. It is important to remember that 1787 was not the only year of nation building. The nation’s colonial and revolutionary heritage shaped the meetings in Philadelphia. Budding industrialism in basically agrarian nation put economic issues on the Philadelphia agenda. What Madison was to call an “unequal division of property” made equality an issue, particularly after Shays’ Rebellion. The greatest inequality of all, that between slavery and freedom, was so contentious an issue that it was simply avoided at Philadelphia. Nor did ratification of the Constitution end the nation-building process. Constitutional change-both formal and informal-continues to shape and alter the letter and the spirit of the Madisonian system. Because that system includes separate institutions sharing power, it results in many checks and balances. Today, some Americans complain that the system has created a government too responsive to too many interests and too fragmented to act. Others praise the way it protects minority views.


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