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Constitutional Convention

Constitutional Convention. Why the Constitution took the shape it did (structure). To understand, need to put self in 1780’s. (the mentality of the Founders). It had been a world of emperors – not democracies. The US was down the list of powerful countries – surrounded by enemies.

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Constitutional Convention

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  1. Constitutional Convention

  2. Why the Constitution took the shape it did (structure). • To understand, need to put self in 1780’s. (the mentality of the Founders). • It had been a world of emperors – not democracies. • The US was down the list of powerful countries – surrounded by enemies.

  3. They had to conduct a “political cleansing”. • Spain was the most hated. • The US hated Roman Catholicism. • Spain was the evil empire. • The Mississippi River belonged to Spain. • US had no navigational rights to the river.

  4. On the homefront, each state had to chose between anarchy and tyranny.

  5. Three major questions of debates of the Constitution • Should the new government be federal or national? • Should this new government be controlled by large or small states? • How powerful should it be?

  6. Federal or national? • These were totally different terms in the 18th century. Everyone wanted a republic (for the public good) and there were two types: • Federal; federated republic; confederated (Federalist Papers #9). Works to control states, not the people (the United Nations is an example) • National, unitary, consolidated republic. (Federalist Papers #17) The states would vanish; nothing between national government and the people.

  7. Federal – government of and by the states • National – government by the people; by the people making the nation. • Therefore, a central government can be a federal style or a national style.

  8. Resolution by Richard Henry Lee, June 11, 1776, created the United States. Say we need a new government – a plan of confederation to be drafted and written out. • Britain was a national government. • The King and Parliament had power over all individuals – and the founders did not want this.

  9. The Articles of Confederation – a union of state governments. • states remained (absolutely) sovereign over their own affairs. (Articles II and III) • they did surrender limited powers (Article IX). An example was power over the Indians. • State governments stood between Congress and individual citizens. (Art. VIII, para 2)

  10. What did the Articles accomplish? • established a government that could coordinate resources • did not threaten the sovereignty of the states • did so without threatening the lives, liberties and property of the citizens

  11. Threats - territorial integrity of the US began to fray • territory – can’t defend – Northwest Territories still had British; Spain was in the South and Southwest. • The Continental Army had disbanded. Unpaid soldier mutinied. • Bits of states tried to secede (ex: Vermont; and State of Franklin in Western NC)

  12. Economic problems – they were unable to control the economy • British sold tons of cheap goods to America; there was no power of protective tariffs. So, going deep in debt to the British. Domestic industries were going bust • British closed the West Indies to trade • States acting on their own – ex R.I. created inflation to help debtors. Creditors hated it. Shays’ Rebellion – merchants in Boston hired an army

  13. With these problems, some men began thinking. • Dickinson and others began to feel that a federal government was not working and sought a national government. • There were various ideas. • Varying degrees of nationalism. • A more unitary government. • It began at Mount Vernon (Trade convention) and moved on to the Annapolis Convention and then Philadelphia.

  14. The Convention • February 21, 1787 – a resolution in Congress called for revising the Articles (sole and expressed purpose was revision). Some refused to attend. Henry, Lee, Rhode Island. They “smelled a rat”.

  15. Every member was a variant of a nationalist. The term Federalist was not used until the ratification phase. • From the start, it was a stacked deck.

  16. How strong shoud it be? Memories of the British remained strong!!

  17. Three Plans • Randolph (Virginia) Plan • Paterson (New Jersey) Plan • Hamilton Plan – didn’t get very far (Gunning Bedford and Alexander Hamilton – sir, we don’t trust you! A matter of trust!!)

  18. Question #2 – Should the government be controlled by large or small states? • There were two forms of dividing power: equal or proportional. • Equal – 27% of the population were in the 7 smallest states • Proportional – 47% of the population were in the 3 largest states • Weeks of debate!

  19. Compromise • legislative branch • choosing a president • Electoral college: compromise between supporters of equal and proportional plans. If a tie, House of Reps would vote with each state receiving only one vote. • Ratification process: • Each state voted individually – 9 states needed

  20. Question #3 – How powerful should it be? (Divided powers) • Legislative Powers: enumerated, unenumerated, with limitations • Executive • Judicial

  21. In attempting to balance power • Congress has the lion’s share of power • can shut down the President and Supreme Court • limited by elections every two years

  22. The supremacy clause • the Constitution was the “supreme law of the land”

  23. Nationalists didn’t want to call themselves nationalists (government directly over the people – no states). • The term Federalist began as supporters of the Constitution – a nationalist constitution. • The Anti-Federalists were the true federalists. (state sovereignty)

  24. Anti-Federalists concerns • tyranny - arbitrary or oppressive exercise of power – the absence of a bill of rights. • consolidation – consolidation of the states into a single, national, system

  25. Evidence of tyranny – the absence of a bill of rights. There was no provision of civil trials. So, Article III, Sec 2. • Also, the government could not grant any title of nobility, Article I, Sec 9. • If we have to tell them this, what else do we need to tell them?

  26. The Federalists countered • The Federalist Papers #10. • It was powerful, but could never become tyrannical: • (a) the US is too big for consensus, and • (b) the balance of power prevents it from becoming tyrannical.

  27. Signs of consolidation • a. “We the people” – states have vanished (look at Articles of Conf.) • b. Congress shall have power…general welfare…common defense (Sec 8) • c. militia • d. Supreme Court – one national court • e. Article III, Sections 1 and 2 • f. Supremacy clause

  28. Federalists response to signs of consolidation: (Federalist #39) • It wasn’t really a national government and provided examples: • the foundation – from the states • the source – senate, elected by the state legislatures • these are restrictions on its power • amendment process (states, again)

  29. The deciding element – “pass it and we’ll amend it to fix it”

  30. The amendments addressed tyranny – just because we forgot it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. These are not all the liberties. (Federalists #9)

  31. Amendment 10 addresses the fear of consolidation. It reserves the power to the states. • But, Madison left out the word “expressly” as in Article II of the Articles of Confederation. • Federal power comes from the elastic clause.

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