The Constitution

Introduction

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In order to understand the largest PR campaign of its time, it is important to understand what the Founding Fathers were debating in the Federalist Papers. To fully grasp these debates, one must comprehend why there was conflict in the first place. What exactly was in the Constitution, and why was it such a controversial document?

To answer these questions, one must travel back in time to September 17, 1787, when the Constitutional ConventionA meeting of delegates in 1787 in Philadelphia to address the problems of government under the Articles of Confederation. adjournedAdjourn v. Break off with the intention of resuming it later. and released the Constitution to the public. The Constitution was nothing more than a proposal, drafted by a body of men who were appointed to propose changes to the Articles of Confederation, not create a new system of government.1

To be ratifiedRatify v. Sign or give formal consent to, making it officially valid., the Constitution needed the approval of nine out of the thirteen states. As a result, “Debate over the Constitution raged in newspapers, taverns, coffeehouses, and over dinner tables as well as in the Confederation Congress, state legislatures, and state ratifying conventions.”2 To understand the nature of these debates, it is necessary to understand what the Constitution proposed as the new system of government for United States.

Summary

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The Constitution outlined the Framers’ new plan for the U.S. government. This plan created three branches of government: the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch, and the Judicial Branch. The articles of the Constitution discuss the duties of each branch of government, as well as the relationship between the Federal and State governments, and how to amendAmend v. Modify formally, as a legal document or legislative bill. the Constitution.

To view the full text of the original Constitution of the United States, click here.

The Preamble

The Preamble to the Constitution explains the Framers' intent in creating a new system of government. They wanted “to form a more perfect Union” than the system under the Articles of Confederation, and their goal was to design a system that would protect the liberty of citizens and contribute to the public good.3

Article I

This article establishes the legislative branch of government, called Congress. This body consists of two houses: a Senate and House of Representatives. The people of the several states will choose members of the House of Representatives.4 Representatives and direct taxes will be apportionedApportion v. Divide and allocate. by adding the number of free people to three-fifths of the number of all other peopleSlaves. The Senate will have two members from each state chosen by the state legislature, and each member will have one vote. Next, this article explains how bills are sent through both houses of Congress, which are then sent to the President, who can either sign or veto the bill. If the bill is vetoed, Congress can override the veto if both houses pass the bill by a two-thirds majority.

Also, this article lists the specific powers and limitations of Congress. Congress has the power to levy taxes, regulate commerce with foreign nations and between the states, coin money, create courts, declare war, maintain an army and navy, and make any laws necessary to carry out its duties.5 However, Congress may not suspend Habeas CorpusA writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, collect export taxes, and pass laws that give one state preference over another.6

Article II

This article establishes the executive branch of government, led by the President and the Vice President. It also describes how the President and Vice President are chosen. Each state will appoint a number of electors based on the total number of representatives that state has in both houses of Congress, and the electors will vote for President on behalf of their constituents. The candidate with the most votes will be President, and the candidate with the second most votes will be Vice President. This article also states that the President is Commander in Chief of the army and navy, he will have a Cabinet to advise him, he can grant pardons to criminals, and he will appoint judges and other members of government subject to the approval of the Senate.7

Article III

This article establishes the third branch of government, the judicial branch.8 The Supreme Court will be the highest court in the United States, along with inferior courts established by Congress. This article also describes which cases will be heard in federal courts, which cases will be heard first by the Supreme Court, and that all other cases will go to the Supreme Court on appealAppeal v. Apply to a higher court for a reversal of the decision of a lower court..

Article IV

This article deals with the states. It requires that all states respect the laws of all other states, and guarantees that citizens of all states will be treated equally and given the same protections and privileges under the law. It also says that criminals and slaves fleeing from a state will be returned to that state, and explains how new states will be admitted to the union. Finally, this article guarantees that each state will have a republican Republican adj. A form of government in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives. form of government.

Article V

This article explains the process of amending the Constitution. There are two methods for passing amendments.9 The first method requires both houses of Congress to pass an amendment by a two-thirds majority, and then the states must pass it by a two-thirds majority. The second method requires two-thirds of state legislatures to call a constitutional convention, and the amendment must be passed by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions.

Article VI

This article states that under the Constitution, the United States will be responsible for all debts and contracts made under the Articles of Confederation. It also states that the Constitution and laws made by the federal government are the supremeSupreme adj. Superior to all others. law of the land.

Article VII

Finally, this article requires that nine out of the original thirteen states must ratify the Constitution in order for it to go into effect.10

Problems with the Constitution

Since the Constitution proposed an entirely new system of government, its opponents claimed that there were several problems with it, and argued against its ratification. Some of these problems included representation, taxation, state sovereigntySoveriegnty n. Supreme power or authority., and a lack of a bill of rights.

Representation was a divisive issue because the larger states were in favor of representation based on population, while smaller states wanted equal representation for each state. Although the Constitution's plan for Congress represented a compromise in which representatives in the House of Representatives are determined by population and representation in the Senate is equal for all states, not everyone was satisfied. The issues of slavery and taxation were also closely related to this problem, as Article I specified that representation and taxation would be determined by adding the number of free people to three fifths of the number of slaves. Northern states did not agree that the Southern states should be able to include their slaves when determining representation.

Also, opponents of the Constitution did not like that Congress had the power to levy taxes. This fear was related to the problem of state sovereignty, as those who were against the Constitution argued that the national government was too powerful, and that the state governments were being stripped of their power and would eventually be unnecessary.

Furthermore, those opposed to the Constitution argued against its ratification because it lacked a bill of rights. These opponents feared that without a bill of rights, the national government would violate the rights of its citizens. However, Framers of the Constitution claimed that a bill of rights was unnecessary because the Constitution was a limiting document, so the national government only had the powers specifically enumeratedEnumerate v. Mention one by one. by the Constitution. Also, most of the state constitutions had a bill of rights, so a national bill of rights would be redundant.

For more information on the U.S. Constitution, visit this website.

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