ORIGINS OF THE CONSTITUTION,, INCLUDING THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION
During the Constitutional Era, the Americans made two attempts to establish a workable government based on republican principles.
How did America’s pre-Revolutionary relationship with England influence the structure of the first national government? American political leaders, fearful of a powerful central government like England’s, created the Articles of Confederation, adopted at the end of the war.
What weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation led to the effort to draft a new constitution?
• Gave Congress no power to tax or regulate commerce among the states
• Provided for no common currency
• Gave each state one vote regardless of size
• Provided for no executive or judicial branch
THE MAJOR COMPROMISES NECESSARY TO PRODUCE THE CONSTITUTION,, AND THE ROLES OF JAMES MADISON AND GEORGE WASHINGTON
The Constitution of the United States of America established a government that shared power between the national government and state governments, protected the rights of states, and provided a system for orderly change through amendments to the Constitution itself.
How did the delegates to the Constitutional Conventionbalance competing interests? Key issues and their resolution
• Balanced power between large and small states by creating a Senate(where each state gets two senators) and a House of Representatives (with membership based on population)
• Placated the Southern states by counting the slaves as three-fifths of the population when determining representation in the U.S. House of Representatives
• Avoided a too-powerful central governmentby establishing three co-equal branches—legislative, executive, and judicial—with numerous checks and balances among them
• Limited the powers of the federal government to those identified in the Constitution
• George Washington, President of the Convention
Washington presided at the Convention and, although seldom participating in the debates, lent his enormous prestige to the proceedings.
• James Madison, “Father of the Constitution”
Madison, a Virginian and a brilliant political philosopher, often led the debate and kept copious notes of the proceedings—the best record historians have of what transpired at the Constitutional Convention. At the Convention, Madison authored the “Virginia Plan,” which proposed a federal government of three separate branches (legislative, executive, judicial) and became the foundation for the structure of the new government. He later authored much of the Bill of Rights.
The major principles of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution were based on earlier Virginia statutes.
How was the Bill of Rights influenced by the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom?
Virginia Declaration of Rights (George Mason)
• Reiterated the notion that basic human rights should not be violated by governments
Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (Thomas Jefferson)
• Outlawed the established church—that is, the practice of government support for one favored church
Bill of Rights
• James Madison, a Virginian, consulted the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom when drafting the amendments that eventually became the United States Bill of Rights.
ARGUMENTS OF FEDERALISTS AND ANTI--FEDERALISTS DURING THE RATIFICATION DEBATES AND THEIR RELEVANCE TO POLITICAL DEBATE TODAY
Elements of Federalist and Anti-Federalist thought are reflected in contemporary political debate on issues such as the size and role of government, federalism, and the protection of individual rights.
What were the major arguments for and against the Constitution of 1787 in leading Federalist and Anti-Federalist writings and in the ratification debates?
Who were the leading Federalists and Anti-Federalists in the pivotal ratification debate in Virginia?
Federalists advocated the importance of a strong central government, especially to promote economic development and public improvements. Today those who see a primary role for the federal government in solving national problems are heirs to this tradition.
Anti-Federalists feared an overly powerful central government destructive of the rights of individuals and the prerogatives of the states. Today more conservative thinkers echo these concerns and champion liberty, individual initiative, and free markets.
The leading Virginia opponents of ratification were Patrick Henry and George Mason; the leading Virginia proponents of ratification were George Washington and James Madison.
HOW JOHN MARSHALL’S PRECEDENT-SETTING DECISIONS ESTABLISHED THE SUPREME COURT AS AN INDEPENDENT AND EQUAL BRANCH OF THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT..
Important legal precedents established by the Marshall Court strengthened the role of the U.S. Supreme Court as an equal branch of the national government.
How did Chief Justice John Marshall, a Virginian, contribute to the growth of the U.S. Supreme Court’s importance in relation to the other branches of the national government?
The doctrine of judicial review set forth in Marbury v. Madison, the doctrine of implied powers set forth in McCulloch v. Maryland, and a broadly national view of economic affairs set forth in Gibbons v. Ogden are the foundation blocks of the Court’s authority to mediate disagreements between branches of governments, levels of government, and competing business interests.