Government in America- Chapter 2 Outline.pdf

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University of California - Irvine
Political Science

2.1 The Origins of the Constitution The Road to the Revolution Life wasn't bad for the white men; they really had more discretion and wiggle- room than they lead on Parliament forced the colonies pay taxes to pay for British protection after/during the French and Indian War After boycotts, in 1774 the colonies began seriously contemplating independence Declaring Independence The Continental Congress, after 2 years of debate and discussion, adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 The Declaration listed numerous grievances the colonies had against King George III (not Parliament) and used said complaints as justification for seceding from British rule French assistance helped the colonies win the ensuing war against Britain The English Heritage: The Power of Ideas The revolutionary leaders quoted European philosophers when explaining their justifications for revolting John Locke- inspired the ideas of natural rights to life/liberty/property, limited government, and the consent of the governed believed the purpose of government was to protect one's natural rights, especially the preservation of one's property believed people should have the right to overthrow a government that no longer has their consent The American Creed the language of the Declaration of Independence (by Thomas Jefferson) closely mirrored John Locke's beliefs (paraphrased above) Winning Independence The colonies won independence in 1783, despite unlikely odds since Britain had far more resources The "Conservative" Revolution The purpose of the revolution was merely to restore denied rights, not to completely rearrange the lives/ways of the colonials 2.2 The Government That Failed: 1776-1787 The Articles of Confederation Established a government dominated by the states because the colonies were afraid to have a strongly centralized federal government and didn't want anything similar to the monarchy they "escaped" There was no executive branch and no federal courts, there was one chamber of legislature and every state got one vote, no regulation of commerce, and it required unanimous states consent to amend the Articles. The Articles put too much faith in state-to-state cooperation and thus were so horrible that the nation's leaders once again banded together to create a constitution that actually worked Changes in the States White males were gaining more freedoms and rights, while middle class white men were joining the political process and voicing their opinions, reducing the power of the elite few Economic Turmoil With a postwar depression, the newly created state legislatures (now composed with more middle-class men) were sympathetic to farmers who were going out of business and passed laws to favor them over the elite creditors The Shays Rebellion was led in 1786 against creditors who had taken the property of farmers unable to pay their debts; since Congress couldn't raise an army under the Articles' regulations, the rebellion largely went unhindered by governmental intervention and reminded those "in power" just how little power the Articles gave them The Aborted Annapolis Meeting In 1786, 5/13 states met to address commercial conflicts from the Articles of Confederation but ended up just requesting a larger convention to fully discuss the Articles' shortcomings 2.3 Making a Constitution: The Philadelphia Convention The delegated were supposed to revise the Articles of Confederation but ended up writing the Constitution instead Gentlemen in Philadelphia The delegates were an elite group of prominent and successful white men; most were educated and from the coastal cities while most of America at the time was the opposite Philosophy into Action Though the men differed greatly on may issues, the agreed on: Human Nature: people were naturally self-interested and government should play some key role in containing selfish impulses Political Conflict: the uneven distribution of wealth/property lead to the formation of factions (interest groups/parties) that if left unchecked would tyrannize each other and thus the factions must be checked by the government Purpose of Government: the main goal of the government should be to preserve individual rights to acquire and hold wealth Nature of Government: separate branches of government should be created that would balance the power of the government as a whole and prevent one branch from becoming too powerful 2.4 Critical Issues at the Convention The Equality of Issues Equality and Representation of the States: the New Jersey plan called for equal state representation in Congress while the Virginia Plan called for representation based on state population. The Connecticut Compromise gave equal representation in the Senate and proportional representation in the House of Representatives. Slavery: the Constitution doesn't necessarily protect slavery but it did not infringe on i
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