Online notes ch1-2 - Session 1 Constitution Government...

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Session 1 Constitution Government before the Constitution Government before the Constitution: Articles of Confederation The Articles of Confederation were finally ratified in 1781. They created a "loose league of friendship" between the states because the authors wanted to avoid a strong central government as they had experienced under Great Britain. For that reason, the articles only created one branch of government with very few powers. That branch was a unicameral (one house) Congress. There was no President or executive branch and no Supreme Court or judicial branch. The Congress could only change the Articles of Confederation with a unanimous vote and, of course, this meant that changes were highly unlikely. This unicameral Congress had no power to collect taxes--states collected taxes and donated whatever they wanted to the federal government. It had no power to raise an Army (there were only state militias). It had no power to regulate currency or tariffs (states did this). As a result, trade between states was hampered. While the Articles of Confederation were politically popular, politicians began to worry that the United States could not defend itself if attacked. So an agreement was made to update and change the Articles of Confederation. As the framers of an updated document met, they came to the conclusion that the articles were too flawed and instead they wrote what we now know as the US Constitution. Did you know the US Constitution was preceded by the Articles of Confederation? Why did the articles not last? You might also note which of the Constitutional framers liked the model of the Articles of Confederation and which preferred the model of the Constitution. Session 1 Constitution The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights The US Constitution was written in 1787 and finally ratified in 1789 as was the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution). The framers of the Constitution were divided in the amount of power they wanted to give to the federal government vs. the state governments. Those who wanted to give the central government more power were known as the federalists and those who wanted to give the states more power were known as the anti-federalists. Who wrote the Constitution?
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Well educated, relatively young, land holders. Beard has argued that their interests as property owners was their main concern and that they were not that interested in democracy. Beard's thesis was useful in that it demystified the founding fathers (I prefer to call them the framers). What speaks against his thesis? One fact that speaks against it is that many of these land holders were in great debt. They were not rich as he implies. Also the framers were not a unified body--they had many disagreements and in fact they only agreed on two basic principles, which appear in the Constitution: checks and balances and separation of power.
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