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Lecture3-student - TheU.S.Constitution(partI...

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The U.S. Constitution (part I) Matisoff – POL 1101 Lecture 3
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The Constitution Brief, but defines the nature of our government Divides power across 3 branches Highly symbolic – considered ‘holy’ Kind of strange that a document designed in 1787 for an agricultural society now governs political life in information age
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Historical basis for Constitution Colonial America allowed freedom of property transfers No ceilings on wages No compulsory payments to established church Seven Years’ War (French & Indian War) – (1756 – 1763) very costly… England argued that colonists should pay for war that protected them from French Colonists were disenchanted with English rule “luxury, effeminacy, & venality” of English Politics – John Adams “corrupt House of Commons” – Patrick Henry “an old, wrinkled, withered, worn-out hag” – Alexander
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The Colonial Mind Liberties for which colonists fought were considered “higher law” “unalienable” – based on nature & providence Demonstrated in Declaration of Independence (1776 – by Thomas Jefferson) – unalienable rights – Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness… followed by 27 paragraphs of specific grievances One of the grievances was slave trade (later dropped) States began writing constitutions… 1776 – eight states had written constitutions State constitutions had detailed bills defining personal liberties
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1776 - 1787 Revolutionary War (1775 – 1781) Costly & done with support of French & Dutch War left country in shambles; no strong national government; widespread destruction No money, heavy taxes, useless printed money Loyalists stripped of rights, property, dignity – many fled to Canada Articles of Confederation (1781) – basically a league of friendship; could not levy taxes or regulate commerce Each state received 1 vote in Congress; 9 of 13 were required to pass measures
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Developing a Constitution Philadelphia Convention – 55 delegates from 12 states (no RI) Young but experienced Framers were concerned with factionalism, tyranny of the majority, & individual rights Sought to devise a government strong enough to preserve order, but not so strong as to threaten liberty “You must first enable the government to control the governed; and the next place oblige it to control itself” – Madison
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The Virginia Plan The Virginia Plan: Strong national government organized in to legislative, executive, judicial branches. Legislative branch divided into 2 houses: 1 chosen by people; 1 chosen by first house among those nominated by state legislatures. Executive & judiciary chosen by national legislature.
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