Congress, United States, Constitution, democratic ideas, articles, Confederation, Federal Convention, central government, Bill of Rights, federalists, antifederalists, The Federalist Papers, dangers, power, May 1776
In May 1776, Congress passed a resolution advising the colonies to form new governments. By 1777, 11 states had drawn up their own Constitutions (which contained the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence). Those Constitutions were influenced by democratic ideas (role of Enlightenment philosophers such as Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau) but they did not break with the past (the colonists were influenced by their colonial experience and the English model).
Those who wrote the state Constitutions wanted to protect their rights (the War of Independence took place because Britain refused to recognize the colonists' rights). The Constitution of Virginia served as a model for all the others. Each state decided about the elements to be included in its own Constitution (elections, freedom, right to bear arms…). All prescribed a three-branch structure of government - executive, legislative, and judiciary - each branch was checked and balanced by the others (system of checks and balances to prevent one branch from having too much power over the others).
[...] The delegates had to reconcile two different powers: the powers of the 13 states (local power) and the powers of the central government. They considered that the functions and powers of the national government had to be defined and stated (the central government should coin money, regulate commerce, declare war, make peace); the powers that were not stated as belonging to the central government belonged to the 13 states. However, some representatives refused to have their powers reduced. There were debates and compromises. [...]
[...] History of the Constitution of the United States In May 1776, Congress passed a resolution advising the colonies to form new governments. By states had drawn up their own constitutions (which contained the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence). Those constitutions were influenced by democratic ideas (role of Enlightenment philosophers such as Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau) but they did not break with the past (the colonists were influenced by their colonial experience and the English model). Those who wrote the state constitutions wanted to protect their rights (the War of Independence took place because Britain refused to recognize the colonists' rights). [...]
[...] Without their support the Constitution would not be respected. To many people, the document seemed full of dangers: they feared the central government would have too many powers (oppress them with taxes, force them into wars). The questions raised by the ratification of the Constitution led to the creation of two parties: the federalists and the antifederalists. The federalists favored a strong central government, and the antifederalists preferred to give more powers to the 13 states. Both sides expressed their ideas in the press and the state conventions. [...]
[...] The Bill of Rights When Congress assembled in New York City in September 1789, the delegates called for amendments protecting individual rights. In December 1791, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution (known as the Bill of Rights) were ratified. The Bill of Rights dealt with freedom of speech, press, religion, and the right to assemble, protest; protection against unreasonable searches, seizures of property, and arrest; due process of law in all criminal cases; right to a fair trial; protection against cruel punishment. [...]
[...] But they gave birth to a very weak union (confederation composed of a national (or central) government and 13 state governments). The central government (Congress) could make decisions, but had no power to enforce them. It could not adopt and levy taxes, or regulate trade. It could not control international relations: some states had begun their own negotiations with foreign countries. Some states had their own armies, others their own navies. They had no common currency (different coins and paper bills with little value). Economic difficulties after the war of independence led to change. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee