The American Constitution

For our American readers, a lot of this, if not all of this, will probably be something you have known since your childhood. But, I feel that it is necessary that we write a blog on the fascinating constitution: how it was formed, what it involved and how different people view it!

How and why was the Constitution formed?

In 1776, thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain by signing the Declaration of Independence, making them ‘free and independent’ states. Consequently, this lead to the War of Independence between the former colonies and Britain from 1776-1783. The colonies had to pay tax to Britain, even though they had no representation in the British Parliament, so wanted to form their own system of government. In 1781, the newly independent colonies established a confederacy through the Articles of Confederation – a confederal government has a lot of power given to the states but little to the national government. However, this confederacy almost turned their victory in gaining independence into a defeat because it proved to be a disaster as their was little power for the national government, thus they failed to make a nation. In 1787, a group of people (now collectively known as the Founding Fathers) agreed to meet up at the Philadelphia convention to amend the Articles of Confederation. In the end, they scrapped the Articles of Confederation and created a new constitution with a number of compromises as to the allocation of powers.

Washington_Constitutional_Convention_1787

What were the compromises?

Three key compromises were the formation of government, state representation and choosing the president. Under British rule there had been a central government (unitary) with a lot of power for the national government, but the Articles of Confederation created a confederal government which gave a lot of power to the states (not the national government). The compromise was a federal government where the states and the national government had equally important powers. Representation for the states varied depending on their size. Large states wanted proportional representation where they would have more representatives compared to small states, but small states wanted equal representation regardless of state size. The compromise was to have a bicameral system (two houses): the House of Representatives would be proportional and the Senate would have equal representation. Finally, some people wanted a directly elected president and others wanted him/her to be appointed. The compromise was to have an indirectly elected Electoral College who would be elected by the people (in the Primaries) who then go on to choose the president (at the national party convention).

How liberals view the constitution

Liberals (such as the Democrats) would argue that the constitution creates a lot of gridlock (difficult to pass laws) and little accountability. Liberals also believe the Bill of Rights (defines citizen’s rights) is very important, but the system allows for the erosion of civil liberties during times of emergency. Finally, to a liberal, the courts have shown themselves slow and unwilling to intervene on a number of issues – especially social issues such as guns, abortion and gay rights.

How conservatives view the constitution

Conservatives (such as the Republicans) believe that the federal government exploits the vagueness of the constitution at the expense of states right and powers. The vagueness of the constitution can be seen through the ‘elastic’ clauses, such as the ‘necessary and proper’ clause, which allows the government to make laws which are ‘necessary and proper’ – conservatives wonder what laws are necessary and proper. They also question the growth of the courts through their power of judicial review, which allows the court to interpret the meaning of the constitution

const

From a non-partisan view

The American constitution is the longest serving constitution in the world and the fact that compromises were made from the left and right meant that that there should be a good balance between the federal government and the state governments. Also, the difficulty of amending the constitution means that it requires broad based support for changes to be made to it.

Questions

  • Does the constitution fulfil its main functions?
  • Does the constitution need changing?
  • What are the pros and cons of the constitution?

Thanks for reading,

Digestible Politics

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20 comments on “The American Constitution

  1. nahashon kimemia says:

    Reblogged this on Nahashon Kimemia – The Truth.

  2. Nice post. Currently, the Constitution is no threat to our current form of government. Where we derailed was in the 30’s when we transitioned from a Republic to a Democracy, mob rule. A Republic is limited by what the founding Law, the Constitution, allows. A Democracy is only limited by what can be achieved by majority vote.

    Secondly, America was destroyed by the lack of knowledge of the Constitution’s basis, Natural Law. Natural Law is in harmony with both nature and God. It does not threaten either the atheist or the Christian. This was the concept that the only purpose for government was to secure for the people Life, Liberty and their Property. Instead, we have a nanny state, where the people have failed to grasp, that in order for a government to give you everything you want, it first has to take everything you have. A government has no resources itself, it only consumes. It is a leach upon society, which is why our founders limited it.

    A new “Constitution” wouldn’t help. Our leaders don’t follow the old one, why would they follow the new one?

  3. digger666 says:

    Whatever the merits of the Constitution, and whether or not the Constitution needs changing, the key point is the Constitution sets out the mechanism for amending its scope. Without that mechanism, we might not have the Bill of Rights; abolition might have encountered insuperable obstacles and women might yet be denied the franchise in many states.

  4. larrydunbar says:

    Left and Right should be capitalized.

    Both parties contain Liberal and Conservative elements, however one is structured more to the Left than the other.

    But good point. The Right dominates everything today, so it is hard to “compromise” when there is no position of strength on the Left.

    • It is the other way around, larry. The left dominates everything. Consider — President Obama is the most liberal president we’ve had since FDR. You can score that on a number of levels — he has outspent FDR (proportionally) by a factor of four to one. He completely ignores the Constitution. His administration has vastly expanded regulation and “hidden” taxes, not to mention ObamaCare, which is going to bankrupt the government if we don’t agree to very much increased taxes — about 60% of everyone’s income — from the minimum wage kid at McDonalds to the CEO of Microsoft.

      The Senate is still controlled by the Left as well and has completely prevented any commonsense legislation offered by the House from passing. Note, the Senate passed its first budget in four years and it makes no attempt to balance the budget, whereas the House has passed five budgets since Obama came into office and all were commonsense approaches to balancing the budget within a decade.

      But, hey, you just go on thinking the “right” has control of everything.

      • larrydunbar says:

        “President Obama is the most liberal president we’ve had since FDR.”

        So your counter argument to my statement about our country being dominated by the Right is that Obama is the most “liberal” president we’ve had since FDR? Brilliant!

        Left and Right are how a society constructs itself, not how the culture identifies itself, i.e., ” left-wing describes an outlook or specific position ” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-wing_politics

        As for Obama’s position, I think if you look at what he has accomplished it’s more status-quo, which as I was suggesting is to the Right. He got healthcare passed, but no public option, and he made no real effort at making the public option available.

        Liberal or Conservative is something we could argument about, but I agree that he is more Liberal than George W. Bush.

        I think what you need to do is use more research before we have anymore conversation. At least use Google before commenting on something you know nothing about.

  5. Good, basic survey of the Constitution’s origins. I’ll just react to the middle question. Of course it needs changing. It always needs changing, because times change and the needs of the nation’s people change. That’s what the Amendment process is for. The procedure requires a large amount of consensus, so Amendments only pass because of sea changes in culture, or (more quickly) in times of dire and obvious need.

  6. jamiewaller2 says:

    A very interesting post – I don’t really have any opinions on the Big Questions of the Constitution but as a Briton I was struck by how different it from our way of political thinking. We have an unwritten constitution and a very long history of traditions and conventions that define how our country works. This can make it very difficult to understand how it operates as most things aren’t written down anywhere!

  7. I appreciate your analysis of the US Constitution. There are certainly things that could be changed. It would be a lengthy process, but a good one. Repealing of the 16th and 17th Amendments would be a good start. As with the 18th Amendment, when we realized it was a mistake, we repealed it with the 21st Amendment. The 16th needs to be replaced with a consumption tax so that we stop discouraging earning and savings in the US and the 17th needs to be repealed to put the states back on a stronger footing against the federal government, which has grown all out of proportion to what it was designed to be. We also need an amendment that would limit the terms of Congress, since the voters seem unable to resist the allure of big money advertising campaigns. Maybe every decade, having to get to consider the candidates would help us understand that voting is something that requires at least as much attention as Keeping up with the Kardashians.

  8. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak and commented:
    A great analysis by someone who isn’t an American conservative.

  9. Shawn West says:

    In reply to the first paragraph of “How and Why” ending with the word, “1781”;

    Taxes was the spark that started the fire but the Stamp Act was actually repealed resulting in a political victory for the Colonies. That should of been that and today my passport might be British rather than American. It was the passage of the Declaratory Act by British Parliament the same day in which the Stamp Act was repealed that was the one straw too many.

    The Declaratory Act asserted the absolute right of British Parliament to make laws for the American Colonies in all cases what so ever, not just taxes. This stripped the Colonies of a political voice reducing all its citizens to the status of servants or dependents without self governance.

    Even after the British military occupation of Boston, the Battles of Concord and Bunker Hill, most Americans still considered themselves loyal subjects of the King and are expecting some sort of negotiated settlement.

    At this point it is King George, not Congress, that declares the colonies enemies and outside of his protection. The British navy is ordered to attack New England sea port towns resulting in Falmouth being bombarded and burned to the ground.

    Only at this late date riding a wave of events and a new political voice largely stemming from the 50 page pamphlet, “Common Sense”, does Congress create and adopt The Declaration of Independence.

    That “We the People” declared independence from Great Britain then went to war over the issue of “Taxation Without Representation” is one of our more popular myths. It ranks up there with George Washington being our first president. Still it is a good post and thought provoking.

  10. The Preamble to the Constitution is extremely important. It reads:

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    As the Constitution affirms a balance between nation, state, and local powers, this mission statement affirms a balance between individual freedom and social responsibility. It envisions liberty within community. Those who focus on one and neglect the other miss the point.

  11. Durable says:

    America is a defacto oligarchy and the constitutional republic is long dead. Both the left and the right have veered so far from the enumerated powers as to cause the founders and those aligned with their thinking want to clean house completely. If the politicians have no ethics and the people have no courage then tyranny is the end result regardless of the form of government. America is on a fast track to a police state. the rule of law exists only to protect the power structure and now they dont even feel the need to hide that having passed the equivelant of hitler’s enabling acts.

  12. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog for a little while today. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as good as when I arrived. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks!

  13. Jack Curtis says:

    I suppose that the zeitgeist among our governors is our status de facto as post-Christian and post-Constitutional. They do what they want, while reading the polls rather than the Constitution. And given that we are essentially governed by a rather Fascistic amalgam of politicians and their bank and business allies, the public always finishes last and owing…

    But not to worry…it will get worse…

  14. […] The American Constitution. […]

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