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					Government, Chapter 3

     The Constitution
A Blueprint for Government

    Think about governing after a revolution

• Colonists fought to secure rights
• Now they want to create a government that protects
  those rights AND at the same time is strong enough
  to maintain order and enforce laws

   “where there is no law, there is no freedom”
                                         - Locke
Goals of the Constitution

            Text pg 69
         The new government needed to

• Raise an army
• Pay its bills
• Conduct relations with foreign countries
                 Framers’ solution

• Create governing document (The Constitution)
• Divide, distribute, and balance governmental power
• Make government power subject to will of the people
• Bill of Rights (1791)
   • Placed specific restraints on power of government
   • Government cannot violate basic rights of citizens
      The 3 main parts of the Constitution

• Preamble—states broad goals
• The seven articles—create structure of the U.S.
• The amendments—27 changes added during the
  nation’s history
Basic principles
see text page 70
Popular Sovereignty:
Government gets its authority from the people

• Ultimate political power remains with the people
• Each election is chance for citizens to exercise
• Elected leaders work for you; can vote to “fire”
  elected officials when you step into voting booth
• Citizens have obligation to vote wisely; choose leaders
  after thoughtful deliberation
Popular Sovereignty continued…
    A Republican Form Of Government
• Citizens did not have unlimited power
• Not a direct democracy
• Placed constitutional limits on popular sovereignty (ie
  restricting how the Constitution can be amended)
• Elected leaders represent broad and diverse group of
  citizens with competing interests
• Tend toward factions with broad interests, not
  narrowly partisan ones
Popular Sovereignty continued…
    James Madison’s concern: factions
Faction: a group of citizens united by common interest
• Could be minority or majority
• Might act in a way that hurt the rights of other
  citizens or the interests of the nation
  Limited Government:
       The principle that powers and functions
       of government are restricted
• aka rule of law —idea that every member of society
  must obey the law
• Most Americans opposed too much government
  control of business or private activities
• Framers felt limited government promoted goals,
  protected individual rights
 The principle of limited government is spread
          throughout the Constitution

• The list of powers is long, but the powers not listed
  are excluded
• Powers are explicitly denied
• Bill of Rights a safeguard
Separation of Power: The powers of government
are divided among the legislative, executive and
judicial branches

            See chart on page 72
Separation of Powers: Ensures that the
powers of government are not concentrated in
the hands of a few officials or agencies
• Article I: Creates and empowers Congress
   –the lawmaking body of the nation
• Article II: Establishes duties of the executive branch
   –the president, the vice-president, and the many
     executive departments
• Article III: Establishes the judicial branch
   • Exercises the judicial power of the United States;
     interprets and applies the law
              Checks and Balances

Each branch of government has the power to change or
cancel acts of another branch
          Congress checks the Executive

• by controlling taxes and spending
• can reject nominations; approve treaties
• Congress is given power to declare war; limits
  president’s power
      Executive branch checks and balances
• Has the power to veto, or reject, legislation
  • Threat of veto sometimes sufficient to push revision of
    legislation so it has better chance of getting signed
  • President can exercise veto power
• However the Presidents veto is limited
  • Congress can override veto with two-thirds majority of
    both houses
  • If Congress can muster enough votes, the bill passes
    The Judicial Branch checks and balances
• Judicial branch can declare acts unconstitutional—the
  power of judicial review
• Federal judges given lifetime terms; insulated from
  undue political influence

Judicial review is balanced:
• President has power to make federal judicial
• Congress has power to approve all federal judicial
Court Packing
Presidential frustrations - Famous example of
annoyance at Supreme Court in 1930s

• President Franklin Roosevelt convinced Congress to
  pass measures to combat the Great Depression
• Court declared some measures to be unconstitutional
• Roosevelt responded by introducing legislation to
  reorganize the federal judiciary
   • increase the size of the Court by adding new
   –larger Supreme Court with favorable majority
            Court Packing continued…
• Critics accused Roosevelt of trying to change balance
  of power with “court-packing” plan
• Plan never implemented
• In second term, Roosevelt able to replace five of the
  Supreme Court justices; gained a sympathetic
  majority which upheld New Deal programs, including
  Social Security
                    Judicial Review

• The power to determine whether actions of
  legislative and judicial branch are constitutional
• Any law or government action (federal or state) found
  to violate a part of the Constitution is said to be
• act deemed illegal and cannot be enforced or carried
  out by the government
 Judicial review not mentioned in Constitution

• Writers of Federalist Papers made it clear courts
  were to have such power
• an independent judiciary would serve as precaution
  against one branch becoming predominant over the
• In 1803 the Supreme Court established the principle
  of judicial review with the landmark case Marbury v.

• The powers of government are distributed between
  the national government and state governments
• Federalism provided the basis of compromise at the
  Philadelphia Convention between supporters of a
  strong national government and those delegates who
  favored retaining state traditions and local power.
              How Federalism Works
• National and state governments share power over
  the same group of people.
• Local governments are units of the states.
• Each level of government has its own powers and
  responsibilities, but often their spheres overlap.
• Every citizen of the U.S. must obey both federal laws
  and the laws of his or her state.
• Citizens may also vote for their representatives in
  both state and federal elections.
     The Constitutional Basis of Federalism
Supremacy Clause (Article VI)
   • Asserts the authority of the national government over the
   • The Constitution, national laws, and treaties made by the
     national government should be held as the supreme law of
     the U.S.
   • In cases of discrepancy, federal laws usually supersede
     state laws
Enumerated Powers (Article 1, section 8)
   • Powers granted to the national government, and
     specifically to Congress
Tenth Amendment
   • Grants all powers not specifically reserved for the national
     government to the states
   • Often cited in arguments in favor of state’s rights
          Does the Constitution protect
             your right of privacy?
• Loose Construction: The Constitution does not
  explicitly mention such a right, but many people
  argue that the Constitution and Bill of Rights, when
  read as a whole, protect an implied right of privacy.
• Strict construction: argue that the Constitution
  should be read literally: The words on the page mean
  exactly—and only—what they say. When the
  Constitution is read strictly, people argue, it is
  improper to protect a broad right to privacy
An Enduring Document

                 Amending the Constitution
       Jefferson’s views                       Madison’s views
• Jefferson felt Constitution should    • Madison felt laws and
  not be changed on a whim but            constitutions grow in authority
  could be changed as society and         and acceptance the longer they go
  circumstances changed                   unchanged
• Believed in each generation as “a     • Worried that changing
  distinct nation,” with the right to     Constitution too often could split
  govern itself but not to bind           the country into factions
  succeeding generations
                                        • Feared sectional rivalry would
                                          leave the nation prey to foreign
                                          powers and influence
                                        • Madison feared periods of chaos
                                          might occur between periods of
•Original Constitution a product of its time
  – Reflects wisdom and biases of the Framers; relatively few
    changes in over 220 years
  – Survived the Civil War, presidential assassinations, and
    economic crises to become world’s oldest written
•Original document not perfect
  – Perpetuated injustices with compromises permitting slavery
    and the slave trade
  – States given power to set qualifications for voting; women,
    nonwhites, and poor people denied right to vote
  – Decisions reflected societal attitudes of the times
•Ability to incorporate changing ideas of freedom and liberty
 keeps document relevant to each new generation since 1789
             The Amendment Process

• Gives Americans the power to change the
• Is difficult in order to prevent momentary passions
  and prejudices of the majority from violating the
  rights of the rest of the citizens
The Amendment Process continued…
            Article V describes process for
            amending the Constitution
• States that amendments must first be proposed, then
  ratified, or approved
• Provides two ways of proposing and two ways of
  • Two-step process required ratification by the states
  • restricted power of Congress to change the
  • Ensured that any change would reflect national will
  • Supported principle of popular sovereignty
              Supermajority required

•Each step in process requires supermajority—a
 majority that is larger than a simple majority
•Difficult process would weed out frivolous

• All of the amendments to the Constitution have been
  proposed by Congress
• Required number of states for a national convention
  has been nearly reached twice
• Convention supporters have never persuaded the last
  few needed states
       Changing the Constitution Difficult

• More than 10,000 attempts have been suggested or
• Only 33 amendments have been passed by Congress
  and sent to states for ratification
• 27 amendments have been adopted
• 6 have been rejected
            Rise and Fall of Prohibition
Eighteenth Amendment
• 1917: Responding to public demand, Congress
  proposed amendment
• 1919: Enough state legislatures had ratified the
  proposal to make it the Eighteenth Amendment; but
  drinking alcohol not banned
Prohibition unpopular
• Lucrative trade in illegal alcohol; led to organized
  crime, political corruption, and violence
• Groups of citizens led movement for reform; used
  many of same arguments
              Twenty-first Amendment
• Congress responded to new reform movement
• Proposed to repeal prohibition and to give states
  power to regulate transportation and distribution of
  alcoholic beverages
• This was the only time the method of ratification by
  state conventions of delegates elected specifically to
  vote on the issue used
• 36 states ratified within the year
• Amendment XVIII was repealed by Amendment XXI
  The Bill of Rights was designed to protected
           specific individual freedoms

1st Amendment
• The right to practice religion freely, protects freedom
  of expression, and the right to ask the government to
  correct injustices
• Restrictive; declares what federal government may
  not do
• Intended to guarantee individual’s exercise of certain
  basic freedoms
           The Bill of Rights continued…
2nd gives right to bear arms
3rd prohibits government from forcing citizens to
  quarter, or shelter, military troops in their homes
4th protects individuals against unreasonable searches
  and seizures of private property
5th & 6th guarantee due process of law; no self-
  incrimination; right to a speedy trial and the right to
  an attorney
7th – 10th protect rights or powers that belong to the
  states and to the people
             The Other Amendments
• After Civil War amendments passed to ban slavery, to
  recognize all African Americans as U.S. citizens, and
  to give African American men various rights,
  including the right to vote
• Not often enforced from 1877 to 1965 in the South;
  Jim Crow laws put into effect
• Vigorous social reform; prohibition came and went
• Popular election of senators; women granted right to
• Constitution provides stable, flexible government
Applying the Constitution

How have the three branches of government
        applied the Constitution?
                 Legislative Branch

• Expanded the justice system
     •Section 1, Article III created the Supreme Court;
      Congress authorized to create “such inferior courts
      as the Congress may from time to time ordain and
     •With Judiciary Act of 1789 created system of lower-
      level federal courts
• Created the executive departments and agencies
• Expanded law into new areas
                Executive Branch

• Applied law through executive agreements
• Agencies adopt rules to implement laws
               Executive Agreements
• Presidents make executive agreements –agreements
  with foreign leaders or foreign governments
• A treaty has to be ratified by the Senate; an
  executive agreement has the same force but does
  not have to be ratified
• Power not found in Constitution text; derived from
  acknowledged constitutional powers
• Executive agreements important to conducting
  foreign policy; can bypass long, formal treaty process
                    Judicial Branch
• Judicial Review
• Judicial Interpretation
   • Modern-day cases a challenge
   • “Unreasonable searches and seizures” in an era of
     airport screening devices, cell phones, and wireless
     Internet access
   • Courts must interpret the Fourth Amendment in
     light of changing conditions; judges to apply the
     Constitution’s prohibitions to new technologies.
 How have political parties, customs, and
traditions changed how the Constitution is
                   Political Parties
• Political party—an organized group that seeks to win
  elections in order to influence the activities of
• Parties help determine the choice of candidates,
  policies, and programs presented to the voters
• Parties also help shape the judicial branch; deeply
  affect how government operates
          Legacy of Political Movements

• Populists supported bank regulation; government
  regulation of railroads; unlimited coinage of silver;
  direct election of senators
• Progressives took same causes as Populists; helped
  the urban poor
• Federal government regulated banks, food and drug
  safety, railroads, and business monopolies
• Now have PACs, online political commentators, and
Customs and Traditions strongly influence how
      American government behaves
• Constitution authorizes the president to “require the
  opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of
  the executive departments”
• Washington relied on language in Article II to create a
  cabinet—a group of advisers consisting of the heads
  of the executive departments; in time tradition of
  cabinet and cabinet meetings born
        Some traditions have become law

• No president served more than two terms in office
  until Roosevelt broke with tradition with third and
  fourth terms as president in the 1940s
• Many Americans concerned; Congress passed the
  Twenty-second Amendment
• Presidents limited to two terms, formalizing the
  custom that began with Washington
            Criticisms of the Constitution
• Imperfections: Brevity, insight, and flexibility commands
• Gridlock: Inability to govern effectively due to separation
  of powers. Can bring government to a standstill.
• Representation: Constitution falls short of truly
  representative democracy (i.e. states with small
  populations have far more relative influence than
  residents of states with large populations)
• Electoral College: the body of 538 people elected from
  the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Critics point to
  the fact that the winner of the popular vote may not win
  the presidency
             Winner-Take-All Elections
• Winner-take-all system: the candidate in each district
  who receives the most votes wins the seat.
• Proportional representation: seats in the legislature
  are given to each party according to the percentage
  of the total votes they win, giving less popular
  parties a voice.
• The proportional system allows a larger variety of
  viewpoints to be represented, but also leads to
  fractured legislatures with many small parties
• The American system allows the party with the most
  support to govern.