Political Science - Readings

Political Science - Readings - Introduction...

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1/11/2011 Introduction: constitutionalism and the American Revolution - The American Constitution adopted in 1781 was actually the culmination of a revolution started in the early 1760’s. - The colonists saw themselves as trying to preserve their “ancient constitutions” and the basic liberties they had enjoyed for 150 years until the English rule suddenly became oppressive. - The generation that mad the revolution was truly revolutionary in the sense that they established political institutions in line with revolutionary beliefs about human equality, popular sovereignty, and natural rights. Emerging American Constitutionalism (1760-1776) - Events in the 1760’s and early 1770’s brought the conflict between England and the American colonies to a head. - The passing of the Sugar Act of 1764 and Stamp Act of 1765 began a decade-long fight that would culminate in revolution. - Three constitutional issues emerged from this period that would lead Americans to revolution and would shape the constitutions they wrote following independence. o Colonists asserted that they had certain fundamental rights, found in nature as well as in the English constitution. o American colonists began forming a different conception of law and legislative power o The crisis that began in the 1760’s raised the issue of local colonial autonomy. Americans had adopted the classical republican view that popular rule and public virtue were best maintained at the local level. - Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” argued that the king was as oppressive as Parliament, and that the colonists’ rights were incompatible with the British monarchy. The Declaration of Independence - Lee’s resolution was feared at first because of what the possible results of independence might entail. - The Declaration reflects the bipolar elements of individualism and communitarianism. It contains ideas about human nature and the proper foundations and ends of government that would
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1/11/2011 guide Americans in setting up their independent political institutions. - “Right” had most to do with the rights of the people against the privileged interests of the few, not the rights of the individual against the community. - “Liberty” included public or political liberty, the people’s liberty to make policy in line with their conception of public virtue. - “Pursuit of happiness” meant government’s pursuit of “public happiness”. - The Declaration states the ends of government, while the constitution contains the means of achieving those ends. Post-Revolutionary Constitutionalism - It now became the task of the revolutionaries to draft new documents to “constitute” themselves as political communities and institutionalize new power relationships. The Revolutionary States Constitutes
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This note was uploaded on 09/02/2011 for the course PSC 2303 taught by Professor Richardriley during the Spring '08 term at Baylor.

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Political Science - Readings - Introduction...

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