Govt 2305-Ch_2


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Govt 2305-Ch_2

  1. 1. The Constitution Chapter 2
  2. 2. Defining American Constitutionalism  The big picture: American constitutionalism is textual government  It enables well-founded government  It limits government through the constraints of the text  Limited government  A key point of our written government  A Protestant aspect that greatly affected the construction and later interpretations
  3. 3. Texts of American Constitutionalism  Declaration of Independence  Articles of Confederation  The U.S. Constitution  The Federalist Papers  The Anti-Federalist Papers  John Locke, Two Treatises  Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws  Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England  James Harrington, Commonwealth of Oceana
  4. 4. The Nature of American Constitutionalism  Why did we revolt in the American Revolution?  We were revolting against executive power  Who was the executive?  King George III  What is the primary document Americans wrote to express their feelings about George?  The Declaration of Independence  What is the Declaration’s chief message?  Not “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (a.k.a. property)  Not “unalienable rights”  The message: George III sucks
  5. 5. The Nature of American Constitutionalism  Problems with George III  “The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states”  “He has obstructed the administration of justice…”  “He has erected a multitude of new offices…”  “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of the people.”
  6. 6. The Nature of American Constitutionalism  Problems with George III  He is blamed for “quartering large bodies of troops among us…”  He is blamed for “imposing taxes upon us without our consent”  He is blamed for “depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury”  Do any of these complaints sound familiar?  3rd Amendment: “prohibits the forced quartering of soldiers out of war time”  16th Amendment: “allows the federal government to collect income tax” (House of Reps. also introduce revenue measures)  6th Amendment: “right to have a fair and speedy public trial by jury…”
  7. 7. The Nature of American Constitutionalism  What are all the preceding issues about?  Unalienable rights  The first item on the agenda for the America’s first Constitution is limitation of executive power
  8. 8. British Restrictions and Colonial Grievances  A Brief List of Imperial Actions • The Sugar Act of 1764 • The Currency Act of 1764 • The Stamp Act of 1765 • The Declaratory Act of 1766 • The Townshend Revenue Act of 1767 • The Tea Act of 1773 • The Coercive/Intolerable Acts • The Quebec Act
  9. 9. British Restrictions and Colonial Grievances  Reasons for Increased Taxation  The Treaty of Paris (1763)  Britain was roughly 130 million pounds in debt from the French/Indian Wars  Britain’s solution: tax the colonists!  George Grenville was appointed by King George III to solve this minor debt issue  Many of the colonists believed they possessed the same rights as British citizens.  Independence was not declared quickly because most colonists wanted government modification (no more taxes specifically)
  10. 10. The Colonial Response  Thomas Paine’s Common Sense  Written January 1776  It called for a democratic system based on frequent elections and a written constitution that drove many colonists, including the Second Continental Congress toward independence  It spoke in simple language and quoted Biblical scripture (the kinds of things that colonists liked)  Loyalists hated it and attacked it as a baseless, radical democratic idea.  Some patriots like John Adams hated it too. He called it a “crapulous mess” and declared Paine a radical  Overall, the document served its purpose
  11. 11. Declaring Independence  July 4, 1776 – The Declaration of Independence  Universal Truths  “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government.”
  12. 12. Declaring Independence  July 4, 1776 – The Declaration of Independence  Natural Rights  The assumption that people have natural rights was revolutionary at the time  Rights held to be inherent in natural law, not dependent on governments.  John Locke stated that natural law, being superior to human law, specifies certain rights of “life, liberty, and property.”  In the U.S., we altered these certain rights to be “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Locke argued that it was the purpose of government to protect these rights for its citizens
  13. 13. Declaring Independence  July 4, 1776 – The Declaration of Independence  Social Contract  A voluntary agreement among individuals to secure their rights and welfare by creating a government and abiding by its rules  The Mayflower Compact was the first of several documents establishing governments or rules based on the consent of the governed  The Remainder of the Declaration  After outlining these basic principles of government, the Declaration goes on to justify the colonists’ revolt against Britain  Much of the document is a list of what King George III (“He”) did to deprive the colonists of their rights
  14. 14. Declaring Independence  July 4, 1776 – The Declaration of Independence  The Significance of the Declaration  The concepts of universal truths, natural rights, and government established by a social contract have a lasting impact on American life  Set force ideals that are crucial and fundamental to our national identity  Initially established the legitimacy of the new nation in the eyes of foreign governments and the colonists themselves  What does the Declaration really have to do with independence?  Abraham Lincoln stated, “The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use.”
  15. 15. Declaring Independence  The Rise of Republicanism  Some colonists demanded that American independence be preceded by the formation of a strong central government  However, those that called themselves Republicans, were against a strong central government  Fear of a potential American monarchy  Opposed executive authority and any form of governmental restraint on the power of local government  From 1776 to 1780, all of the states adopted written constitutions  11 were totally new  2 were modifications of old royal charters (Connecticut and Rhode Island)
  16. 16. Declaring Independence  The Rise of Republicanism  Republican sentiment led to increased power for the state legislatures  Unicameral legislatures were established in Georgia and Pennsylvania  A legislature with one legislative chamber  Nebraska is the only states in the Union today with a unicameral legislature  Essentially, the Republicans attempted to maintain the politics of 1776  In almost all states, the legislature was the predominant branch of government
  17. 17. The Articles of Confederation  The fear of a powerful central government led to the passage of the Articles of Confederation, a very weak central government  Confederation – a political system in which states or regional governments retain ultimate authority except for those powers they expressly delegate to a central government  Voluntary association of independent states  State – a group of people occupying a specific area and organized under one government  May be a nation or a subunit of a nation
  18. 18. Congress Unicameral; Each state had 2 to 7 members, but only one vote. Most powers were exercised under the approval of 9 states. Amendments required approval from all states. Committee of the States A committee of representatives from all the states was empowered to act in the name of Congress between sessions. Officers Congress appointed officers to do some of the executive work. The States
  19. 19. The Articles of Confederation  Accomplishments under the Articles  Claims to western territories were settled  Maryland refused to sign the Articles if an agreement could not be reached regarding larger states’ claims to western territories  Northwest Ordinance of 1787  Established a basic pattern of government for western territories and those north of the Ohio River
  20. 20. The Articles of Confederation  Powers of Congress  Declare war and make peace  Enter into treaties and alliances  Establish and maintain armed forces  Requisition men and revenue from states  Regulate coinage  Create a postal system  Regulate Indian affairs  Guarantee citizens of each state the rights and privileges of citizens in the several states when in another state  Adjudicate disputes between states on state petition
  21. 21. Check my SlideShare page (rfair07) for more lectures Lectures posted for:  United States History before 1877 / after 1877  Texas History  United States (Federal) Government / Texas Government  Slide 21 of 52  To download a full copy of the full PowerPoint presentation, please go to:  21