POL326Y1 Lecture 4: Constitution and USFP Lecture

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26 Aug 2019
Constitution and US Foreign Policy
Crucial to understanding US Foreign Policy
o It’s complicated in part by distorted understanding of American constitution
The US Constitution is looked at through quasi-religious terms created by the founding fathers of the
American Republic
o Creates impression that the U.S. constitution is above politics and how it must apply
o Elena Kegan: quoted Thurgood Marshall
Described US constitution as a flawed document; flaws included American slavery, didn’t
grant women the right to vote
VP Candidate (Sarah Palin): said she liked all Founding Fathers
o Demonstrated her ignorance
The constitution is above politics: very much a political document; to understand nature of constitution
and its unique features was its longevity (largely agrarian, stood from 13 colonies to global hegemon)
o Political Nature of Constitution: we must look
American Revolution
It wasn’t much of a revolution; it was a civil war between citizens of the same states
o A revolution occurs when a dominant group by subordinate classes
It was a rebellion against British colonial authority and constraints were being placed on British subjects;
saw these as violations of British subjects
Their aim wasn’t a rejection of British colonialism but rather its subservient role; it wasn’t t to replace the
old elite but the elite stayed in power more or less
Individuals behavior doesn’t correspond to the expectations
If demise of British colonialism became inevitable for one’d be a collaborator with the American
Horn: the American revolution was a counterrevolution that pushed southern elites out of colonialism
Articles of Confederation: created a weak central government
o States seeing themselves as independent actors; wanted party to remain in the hands of the state
o Confederation: sovereign resides with the elements of confederation
Shays Rebellion
Occurred in Massachusetts; many had participated in the revolutionary struggles
o After the revolution, things weren’t inclined to forgive those deaths
o There was a divide between anchors/predators; deaths were thought
o Bankers were reluctant to forgive predators that rebelled
Some tensions rose in New Jersey
Articles of Confederation: left out who spoke for whom
o By middle of 1780s: Britain negotiated with individual state governments to try chipping away
some states to reestablish the 13 colonies
o Seen as existential crisis that made this proposition untenable; it’s these twin crises that led to the
negotiation of the constitution
1789: representatives in Pennsylvania created a new governing document
o interests of state representatives not harmonious;
o democratically-oriented states were more progressive
First plan: smaller states
o Led by NJ
o Created constitution based on equality within the state via parliamentary style congress
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