Nolan King History 9 - B Block April 13, 2010
Can you imagine if the United States had one supreme ruler who had complete control? This would never happen now because of the Constitution of the United States. 55 delegates from 12 of the 13 states gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to fix the national government. How did the Constitution guard against tyranny? Tyranny is a type of government in which one person or a group of people with the same beliefs are in charge of the government and abuse their powers. The Constitution guarded against tyranny in several ways which were Federalism, Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances and Large and Small States’ rights.
The first guard against tyranny was Federalism which means powers were divided equally among state and federal government. In Document A, James Madison clearly says “the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments.” This quote from Madison is saying that the government is split into two groups, state and federal. Another example is the note at the bottom of the box in Document A. It states “Madison’s idea of division of power between central and state governments is known as federalism. Federalism protects against tyranny because the state governments do not individually rule, thus there are no issues between the states. Not one state will go to war with any of the other states over disputes because there is a federal government. Federalism prevents against the US government becoming a tyranny.
The second guard against tyranny was Separation of Powers which means that each branch had different powers. This is shown in Document B in each of the three articles from Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States of America. Article 1 says that the legislative branch shall consist of the Congress of the United States, which is split into two divisions, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Next, Article 2 says that the executive branch consists of the President, the Vice President, etc. In Article 3, it is explained that the judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court and a lot of smaller courts as well. The articles are telling that the government and its powers are divided between three branches. Another example is the quote in Document B in the box from James Madison’s Federalist Paper #47. It says “(L)iberty requires that the three great departments of power should be separate and distinct.” This quote shows that the powers in the government should be separate and split equally between the three branches of government. Separation of powers protects against tyranny because not one of the branches of government can take complete control over the United States and the way that the government works. There are many different people with different opinions in government due to Separation of Powers. The founding fathers included Separation of Powers in the Constitution to protect against tyranny.
The third guard against tyranny was checks and balances which means that each branch checks over what the other branches do. The first lines from Document C state “the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that they may be a check on each other…. (The three branches) should not be so far separated as to have no constitutional control over each other.” This quote explains how checks and balances work and how each branch is able to look over what the other branches have done. A second example from Document C is the chart in the middle of the page. The chart shows the checking powers that each branch has. Checks and balances protects against tyranny because one branch cannot abuse its power and pass unfair or unreasonable laws. Not one person or group can put in a set of laws that only benefit themself/ themselves. Checks and balances clearly prevents against tyranny.
The fourth guard against tyranny was large and small states rights which are that the large and small states benefit equally from the Constitution. In Document D, Article 1, Section 2, House of Representatives, it says, “Representatives…. Shall be appointed…. According to…. (population). This statement clearly benefits the large states. They included this in the Constitution because if they didn’t a small populated state could have more say then a largely populated state with more people. The average person in the smaller states would have a bigger say then somebody in a larger state. On the other hand, also in Document D, there is a statement in Article 1, Section 3, Senate, which reads, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state.” This statement benefits the small states because the large states do not get more of a say in government just because they have a larger population. Large and small states having equal say protects against tyranny because some states are not more powerful than others. If some states had an advantage over other states, people would move out of certain states and move to others. No one would want to live in some states. States having the same say in electing the Senate and House of Representatives definitely protects against tyranny.
The Constitution guarded against tyranny in several ways, which were federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances, and every state, large or small having an equal say. The question, “How did the Constitution guard against tyranny?”, is certainly significant today. It is significant because if it hadn’t been for the Constitution of the United States protecting us from tyranny, the United States of America would be a totally different country than the one that we know and love today. We could have monarchs and kings or a dictatorship in which we would have NO SAY IN GOVERNMENT AT ALL. Tyranny was prevented by the founding fathers in the Constitution of the United States in several different ways.