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Why was the Amer Revolution fought?
initially it was waged to preserve an existing way of life with Great Britain, to preserve their traditional rights of life, liberty and property.
once these were threatened by trade and taxation, it escalated quickly to the Amer colonies wanting to split from their British parent and form a system of govt more to their liking
What is the significance of Thomas Paine's Common Sense?
higher proportion of Amers read it than any other political tract in US History
mercilessly mocked the institution of monarchy and helped undermine the legitimacy of British rule when many Amer leaders were reluctant to declare independence at first
What are the key ideas of the Declaration of Independence?
1) human beings possess rights that cannot be legitimately given away or taken from them
2) people create government to protect these rights
3) if government fails to protect people's rights or itself becomes a threat to them, people can withdraw their consent from that govt and form a new one, that is, void the existing social contract and agree to a new one
What influence did Locke & Jefferson have on the Declaration of Independence?
Jefferson closely followed John Locke's ideas in The Second Treatise on Govt by arguing that legitimate govt can be established only by the people, is created to protect inalienable rights, and can govern only with their consent
What did the Declaration of Independence leave unsettled?
- what to do about slavery
- political status of women
- inalienable rights of Native Amer & African Amer
Describe the Articles of Confederation including how many states it took for actions to occur and whether it was considered the first constitution.
- considered our first constitution
- required 9 out of 13 states to approve a national law
- adopted during the last stages of the Revolutionary War, it created a system of govt with most power lodged in the states and little in the central govt which caused many problems including being unable to finance itself or offer protection
Describe the Republican Beliefs of the Founders.
- govt based on popular consent
- rule by people is indirect through multiple layers of representatives
- "people" is narrowly defined by education, property and social standing
- office holding is confined to a narrow and privileged stratum of the population
- elected reps act as "trustees" and act on their own to discover the public good
- barriers to majority rule exist
- govt is strictly limited in what it can do
- govt safeguards rights and liberties with a special emphasis on property rights
Why were the Founders worried?
- worried that too much participation by the people could only have a bad outcome
- an excess of democracy in the states: example is Pennsylvania constitution changing voting qualification and creating a unicameral legislative body
- threat to property rights in the states: legislatures passed laws to protect debtors, "stay acts" forbidding foreclosures
Describe Shay's rebellion and what was its significance?
- Daniel Shay
- Massachusetts, 1786
- armed men took over court houses in order to prevent judges from ordering the seizure of farms for nonpayment of state taxes and the incarceration of their owners in debtors prison
- showed the nation's leading citizens the apparent inability of state governments to maintain public order under the Articles of Confederation
Describe the delegates that attended the Constitutional Convention.
- 55 delegates showed up made up of wealthy men, holders of govt bonds, real estate investors, successful merchants, bankers, lawyers, and owners of large plantations
- educated in the classics
- veterans of Revolutionary War
- most had served on state legislatures
- no women or blacks
Understand the argument Charles Beard made regarding the Constitution.
claimed that the framers were engaged in a conspiracy to protect their immediate and personal economic interests because they were owners of govt bonds, etc.
Describe the plans proposed at the Constitutional Convention.
Virginia Plan: proposal by the large states at the Constitutional Convention to create a strong central govt with power in the govt apportioned to the states on the basis of population
New Jersey Plan: proposal by the smaller states to create a govt with slightly more power in a central govt than under the Articles, with the states equally represented in a unicameral national legislature
Understand the Great (Connecticut) Compromise and the 3/5 Compromise.
Great (Connecticut) Compromise: compromise between the New jersey and Virginia plans formulated by the Connecticut delegates at the Constitutional Convention... called for a lower legislative house based on population size (at least 1 per state) and an upper house based on equal representation of the states (2 per state).. bicameral and broke the deadlock.
3/5 Compromise: delegates agreed to count 3/5 of a state's slave population in the calculation of how many representatives a state was entitled to in the house, Article I, Section 2, Paragraph 3, increased power and electoral votes of slave states... also forbade enactments against slave trade til 1808 and required nonslave states to return runaway slaves to their owners in slave states
Define federalism and what are the powers of the national government under this model?
a system in which govt powers are divided between a central govt and smaller units such as states
- regulate commerce
- provide uniform currency
- provide uniform bankruptcy laws
- raise & support an army and a navy
- declare war
- collect taxes & customs duties
- provide for the common defense of US, etc.
Know the significance of both the supremacy and elastic clause.
supremacy clause: states that the Constitution and laws and treaties of US are supreme law of the land and take precedence over state laws and constitutions
elastic clause: aka "necessary and proper clause" gives Congress authority to make whatever laws are necessary and proper to carry out its enumerated responsibilities
Understand the significance of the Bill of Rights.
- first 10 amendments to the US Constitution that are concerned with protection of basic liberties
- limits what govt may legitimately do
Which branch of government has always been selected by a direct vote from the people?
House of Representatives
Understand how the framer expected to prevent tyranny with the separation of power.
they thought tyranny might be avoided if the powers of govt were fragmented into its executive, legislative, and judicial components and if each component were made the responsible of a separate branch of govt
Where did the Framers' derive their ideas about balanced government?
French philosopher Montesquieu, idea being that concentrated power of any kind is dangerous and that the way to prevent tyranny is first to fragment govt power and then place each into a separate and independent branch
Describe checks and balances.
the constitutional principle that each of the separate branches of govt has the power to hinder the unilateral actions of the other branches as a way to restrain an overreaching govt and prevent tyranny
actions of a single branch can be blocked by either or both of the other branches
Know what Art. I, Sec. 10 & Art IV, Sec I include.
Art I, Sec 10: states could no longer help debtors by printing inflated money, forgiving debts, or otherwise infringing on the property of creditors
Art IV, Sec I: can no longer escape legal and financial obligations in one state by moving to another, also US govt will pay all debts contracted under the Articles of the Confederation
Describe Article VII (how the constitution would be ratified.
approval by 9 states meeting in special constitutional conventions
Who were the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists and what were they arguing about?
- Federalists supported the Constitution (Hamilton, Washington & Adams)
- Anti-Federalists opposed the Constitution
- They were all fighting over the ratification of the Constitution.
How are constitutional changes made?
- amendments to the document
- judicial interpretations of the meaning of constitutional provisions
- everyday political practices of Americans and their elected leaders