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Chapter 2

The Constitution 

To Accompany Comprehensive, Alternate, and Texas Editions

American Government: Roots and Reform, 10th edition Karen O’Connor and Larry J. Sabato Pearson Education, 2009

The Roots of a New Nation  Tensions begin to build in 1760s.  British use mercantilism to justify control.  French and Indian War increases dependence.  Series of acts passed to increase control on colonists.

 Stamp Act Congress in 1765 is first expression of anger.  In 1772, Committees of Correspondence form.  Oppressive acts continue, particularly on tea.

First Continental Congress  Held in Philadelphia in September 1774.  Colonists want to iron out differences with king.

 Adopt Declaration of Rights and Resolves.  War begins in Lexington and Concord.

Second Continental Congress  Held in Philadelphia beginning in May 1775.  Adopt Olive Branch Petition; it is rejected by the king.

 Thomas Paine issues Common Sense.  Delegates call for independence in June 1776.  Write and adopt Declaration of Independence.  Document draws heavily on the ideas of John Locke.

The Articles of Confederation  In a confederation, states are most powerful.  Articles are first attempt at independent government.

 Create a loose “league of friendship”.  Congress has limited power, states are strong.  No executive or judicial branches, no power to tax.  Shays’s Rebellion viewed as a sign of Articles’ weakness.

The Constitutional Convention  Held in Philadelphia in May 1787 to revise the Articles.  Fifty-five delegates from across the colonies attend.

 Refer to delegates as “Founding Fathers” or Framers.  Has been debate about Framers’ motives.

Virginia Plan  Plan favored by the large states.  Three-branch government.

 Two-house legislature.  One house chosen by people, one by legislatures.  Legislature can chose executive and judiciary.

New Jersey Plan 

Strengthen Articles.

 One house legislature with one vote for each state.

 Representatives chosen by state legislatures.  Congress can raise revenues from duties on imports.  Supreme Court with life terms appointed by executive.

Great Compromise  Two-house legislature: House and Senate.  House chosen by people, Senate by state legislatures.  House based on population, two per state in Senate.  Revenue bills originate in the House.

 National government is supreme.  Chief executive chooses Supreme Court.  Appeases both large and small states.

Other Compromises  Three-Fifths Compromise regarding slavery.  Committee on Unfinished Portions handles executive.

 President with four-year term, Electoral College.  President can be removed from office by Congress.

Basic Ideas of the Constitution  Separation of powers between three branches.  Checks and balances provide oversight.

 Government takes the form of a federal system.

Article I: Legislative Branch  Bicameral, Senate and House.  Sets out terms, selection, and apportionment.

 Section 8 lists enumerated powers.  Final clause is necessary and proper clause.  This is the basis for Congress’ implied powers.

Article II: Executive Branch  President with a four-year term.  Qualifications for and removal from office.

 Lists powers of the office.  Commander in chief, treaties, appointments.  Sets out State of the Union Address.

Article III: Judicial Branch  Establishes only a Supreme Court.  Sets boundaries of Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.

 Gives Congress the power to establish lower courts.

Articles IV-VII  Article IV includes full faith and credit clause.  Article IV includes provisions about new states.

 Article V discusses amendment.  Article VI contains the supremacy clause.  Article VII contains provisions for ratification.

Ratifying the Constitution  States hold ratifying conventions; tensions run high.  Federalists support the document.

 Anti-Federalists oppose the document.  The Federalist Papers play a key role.  New Hampshire was ninth to ratify.  Later states demand a Bill of Rights.

Formal Amendment  Two stages: proposal and ratification.  Can be proposed by Congress or state legislatures.

 State legislatures have never proposed.  Can be ratified by state legislatures or conventions.  Convention only used for Twenty-First Amendment.

Informal Amendment ď‚Ť Judicial interpretation. ď‚Ť Social and cultural change.

Figure 2.1- British Land Claims, 1763


Figure 2.2- Separation of Powers


Figure 2.3- Amending the Constitution ď‚Ť


Table 2.1- Articles and the Constitution


Table 2.2- Federalists and Anti-Federalists


American Government - Chapter 2  

Introducing the U. S. Constitution - The Articles

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