Chapter summary for Politics
The constitution supersedes ordinary law. The constitution also guarantees individuals rights and
decentralizes power. This maintains the idea that the power isn‟t located all in the hands of the
The constitution is the nations basic law. It creates political institutions, divides power in
government and provides guarantees to citizens.
Origins of the Constitution
The colonists in the states were governed by Britain at the time. After being frustrated
with Britain imposing taxes and certain things that benefited the “mother country” not the
colonists, they responded by forming the First Continental Congress in September of
1774. Essentially, they send people to meet on behalf of their colony to discuss future
plans with Britain.
On July 2, of 1776 Congress formally approved Richard Henry Lee‟s motion to declare
independence from England. Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence two
days later (July 4, 1776).
o Primary author of DOI was Thomas Jefferson
o A philosopher who was extremely influential to the colonists
o He had a belief of natural rights
Rights inherent in human beings, not dependent on governments
o He said the people must agree on who their rulers will be
o There also must be a clear distinction of what rulers can and cant do
o The sole purpose of government is to protect natural rights
o Two limits on government were important to Locke
They must provide standing laws so that people know in advance whether
their acts will be acceptable
The Supreme Court can not take anything from a mans property without
o Jefferson echoed Lockes thoughts by including that men had rights
“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
The revolution didn‟t change the colonists way of life as many European revolutions did.
The revolution was a conservative movement.
The primary goal was to restore rights that the colonists felt were already theirs as British
subjects and to live as they had before Britain tightened regulations after the seven years
After the revolution a major power shift occurred. Expanding voting privileges, farmers
and craftworker became a decisive majority and the wealthy saw their power shrink
The Government that Failed : 1776-1778
The Congress that adopted the Declaration of Independence appointed a committee to
draw up a plan for a union of the states. That plan, the first constitution was the Articles
o Articles established a national legislature with one house and states could send as
many as 7 delegates and as low as 2.
o No president, no national court
o Congress had few powers other then maintaining an army and navy and little
o All in all the weak and ineffective national government could take little
independent action. All power rested in the states. The national government
couldn‟t make the states do anything and had no power to deal with independent
Changes in states
Structure of government became more responsive to the people
The idea of equality (among white males) was creating change in the nation
Economic issues were areas of great concern
o A series of armed attacks on courthosues to prevent judges from foreclosing on
Making a Constitution
12 representatives met in Philadelphia to heed a continental congress‟ call to take into
consideration the situation in the US. They met to revise the Articles of Confederation.
The 55 delegates ignored this plan and began writing what is now known as the US
These 55 people were an elite group of economic and political notables
Although they had different views they agreed on 4 main things
o Human nature, causes of political conflict, objects of government, the nature of a
Human Nature: people were self interested
Cause of political conflict: the distribution of wealth (land) is the source
Objects of government: the preservation of property
Nature of government: secret of good government is balanced
government. Government should have different branches so they could
have a check and balance system on other areas.
New Jersey Plan
Proposal that called equal representation of each state in congress regardless of the states
The constitution also guarantees individuals rights and decentralizes power. This maintains the idea that the power isn t located all in the hands of the president. It creates political institutions, divides power in government and provides guarantees to citizens. The colonists in the states were governed by britain at the time. On july 2, of 1776 congress formally approved richard henry lee s motion to declare independence from england. Congress adopted the declaration of independence two days later (july 4, 1776): primary author of doi was thomas jefferson. John locke: a philosopher who was extremely influential to the colonists, he had a belief of natural rights. They must provide standing laws so that people know in advance whether their acts will be acceptable. The supreme court can not take anything from a mans property without consent: jefferson echoed lockes thoughts by including that men had rights. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.