For the People

For the People Viewing Notes

Origins of American Government

  • Aristotle: A Greek philosopher who lived around 350 B.C. and wrote about natural law.
  • natural law: Society should be governed by certain ethical principles. A government should respect individual citizens.
  • Age of Enlightenment: During the 16th and 17th centuries, philosophers wrote about natural law and government limitations.
  • John Locke: Locke and Hobbes took the ideas of popular consent and developed it into the social contract theory. All individuals are born naturally free.
  • Thomas Hobbes: Locke and Hobbes said people have the right and duty to revolt against a tyrannical government.
  • popular consent: People should be able to directly participate in their societies.
  • social contract: This theory compares the relationship between citizens and government with a contract. Governments are formed by people to preserve Life, Liberty, Property, and assure justice.

Types of Government

  • monarchy: A government in which hereditary rulers wield absolute power over everybody. Kings or Queens could sometimes do anything they wanted.
  • oligarchy: Body of individuals possessing high levels of wealth, social or military status, or achievement.
  • aristocracy: Rule by a privileged few.
  • democracy: A form of government in which the people hold the power to rule themselves.
  • direct: A democracy where people have an equal say in the laws they create.
  • indirect: Each citizen gets one vote. Representatives then vote within a government structure to make and pass laws.
  • representative: indirect and representative democracy are synonyms.
  • individualism: Citizens have certain rights the government can't take away.
  • inalienable rights: individual rights that include Life, Liberty, and Property. You were born with rights that the government cannot take away.

Before the Constitution

  • Jamestown: English settlers came to America and established this colony in 1607.
  • crown: The British could regulate trade and conduct international affairs.
  • colonies: They could govern domestic affairs and levy own taxes
  • French & Indian Wars: This war left the British financially drained after the Treaty of Paris of 1760 officially ended the war. The British put a stop to colonial westward expansion and passed tough laws called acts.
  • Sugar Act: This was a tax placed on sugar, coffee, and other products exported to the colonies.
  • Stamp Act: This was a tax placed on all paper goods including documents, mail, contracts, newspapers, pamphlets, and playing cards.
  • Quartering Act: This required Americans to house British soldiers in their own homes.
  • First Continental Congress: These 56 delegates represented all colonies except Georgia and met to discuss colonial complaints against England in Philadelphia Hall on September 5, 1774.
  • Declaration of Rights and Resolves: The colonies asked the crown for these colonial rights: right to petition, assembly, trial by peers, freedom from a standing army, and elect representatives to levy taxes.
  • Second Continental Congress: They convened again in Philadelphia in 1775. Fighting had begun in Lexington and Concord, which led the delegates to write the Declaration.
  • Olive Branch Petition: This was the last effort for peace with Britain. King George III ignored the document and instead sent 20,000 troops to keep control of the colonies.
  • American Revolution: Americans wanted freedom from the crown and won their independence in 1783.
  • Declaration of Independence: This document is housed in the National Archives; it declared American independence on July 4, 1776. The preamble contained many of John Locke's ideas such as Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness. It outlined that people can alter or abolish a tyrannical government. It also listed many of the things King George III had done to anger the colonies.
  • Articles of Confederation: It was written in 1776 and ratified by the States in 1781. It created a league of friendship and was the first attempt to create a national government. Many States did not take the government established by this document seriously.
  • confederation: This is a league of semi-sovereign states. States held much of the power, while the national government was very weak because it lacked the ability to regulate trade, collect taxes, and have a national army. Our Founders were fearful of a strong central government.
  • Constitutional Convention: The original purpose of the convention was to revise the Articles. All States, except Rhode Island, sent delegates in May 1787 to Philadelphia to the convention to REVISE the Articles.

Constitutional Convention

  • Virginia Plan: It called for a strong national government that derived its power from the people and not the States. This plan triumphed.
  • New Jersey Plan: It called for a loose confederation of States that shared power with the national government.
  • Great Compromise: Small States wanted equality, while ones with larger populations wanted more representation. It was decided that each State would be represented in the form of two houses in a Congress. Equal representation was provided to all States in the Senate by giving each State two Senators. States with large populations received representation based on the State population in the House of Representatives. Southern States wanted slaves counted to provide representation in the House of Representatives.

United States Constitution

  • confederacy: A government that has strong state power and a weak central government.
  • federalism: A government that has a strong national government with power also reserved to the States.
  • Framers: These men created a stronger national government that also protected State interests in the form of a Constitution. They feared giving too much power to one individual or branch of government.
  • separation of powers: The federal government is divided into these three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
  • checks and balances: Each branch of government has some control over the other branches. One branch is not allowed to monopolize power.
  • Supremacy Clause: Laws of the Constitution and nation are Supreme over the laws enacted by each State. Federal powers and laws take precedence over conflicting actions on the State level.
  • Articles: The Constitution consists of seven articles.. An article is a fancy word for a section. The first three Articles created the three branches of government.
  • bicameral legislature: The Legislature or Congress is divided into two houses: Senate and House of Representatives. England has a House of Lords and House of Commons.
  • Article One: This establishes the Legislative branch. Congress proposes and make laws. It explains qualifications, term lengths, number of representatives and how they are chosen.
  • enumerated powers: Framers gave seventeen powers to Congress including the power to tax, coin money, regulate commerce, and provide for the national defense.
  • Elastic Powers: It is also a clause also called the Necessary and Proper Clause. It provides Congress the authority to pass laws "necessary and proper" for carrying out the 17 enumerated powers. These stretch Congress' enumerated powers.
  • Article Two: This establishes the Executive branch, which gives the President of the United States the power to execute the laws of the land. It describes the President's term of office, qualifications, job description, and rules for replacement.
  • Article Three: This establishes the Judicial branch, which creates the federal court system and Supreme Court. It provides a description and structure of the judicial branch. It also defines the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
  • Supreme Court: They decide cases on the federal level, including ones between States or between a State and federal government. Congress established inferior courts because the Supreme Court has the final say on a lot of issues. States also set up their own court systems.
  • Article Four: It defines the relationship between States and federal government. It explains how new States are admitted to the Union.
  • Article Five: This explains how to amend (change) the Constitution. It also explains the two-stage Amendment process.
  • proposal: This requires a 2/3 vote in both house of Congress or 2/3 of State legislatures can vote for a National Amendment Proposal Convention. The second method has never been used, but it provides the States with the ability to whip Congress into action should they not make a necessary change.
  • ratification: There are two ways to ratify or change the Constitution. The first method is for 3/4 of all State legislatures to vote for an amendment. The second method is for each State to call for a special ratifying convention where 3/4 of of the States vote in favor of an amendment. The Constitution has only been amended 27 times. This means make a document legal and binding.
  • 18th Amendment: Outlawed the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages was ratified in 1919. The only way to repeal an amendment is to add another amendment to the Constitution.
  • 21st Amendment: This was ratified in 1933 and made alcohol legal again. It canceled out the Eighteenth Amendment.
  • Article Six: The federal government gets the final say in most arguments between itself and the States. No religious test is required to hold office.
  • Article Seven: It gives instructions how to ratify the Constitution or make it legal and binding. It required a vote of 9 of the original 13 States for ratification.
  • Federalists: They supported a strong national government, growth of industry, and the Constitution. They wanted a strong federal government. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay were Federalists.
  • Anti-Federalists: They supported strong State governments, a weak national government, an agrarian economy, and distrusted the Constitution. They wanted a weak federal government and favored more of a participatory democracy. They wanted more protections of individual rights. They wrote letters critiquing the Constitution line by line. Although the Constitution was ratified, they were able to convince people to protect personal liberties.
  • Federalist Papers: Federalists wrote 85 political papers that explained the rationale of the Constitution.
  • Bill of Rights: The first Ten Amendments of the Constitution protect or guard individual liberties. These rights are not given by government.
  • First Amendment: It guarantees freedom of speech, religion, press, petitioning, and assembly.
  • Second Amendment: It guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.
  • Third Amendment: It prohibits quartering troops in private homes.
  • Fourth Amendment: It protects against unreasonable search and seizures.
  • Fifth Amendment: It protects the rights of people accuse of a crime. It guarantees due process of law, requires indictment by a grand jury, prohibits a person being tried for the same crime twice, and provides defendants in a trial the right to not testify against themselves.
  • Sixth Amendment: It continues rights of people accused of a crime. It requires a speedy and public trial before an impartial jury, the right to an attorney, and the right to cross-examine witnesses.
  • Seventh Amendment: It preserves the right to trial by jury in a civil suit.
  • Eighth Amendment: It prohibits excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishments.
  • Ninth Amendment: It states that just because a right is not listed in the Constitution, does not mean people don't have that right. All rights not expressly written belong to the people.
  • Tenth Amendment: It was designed to make States happy. It says rights that are not denied to the people, States, or given to the federal government are retained by the States or people. This amendment was added to appeal to the Anti-federalists who thought the Constitution ignored States' Rights. (39 Minutes)

Federalism

  • Federal System: Federalism is a cross between a unitary and confederate government. People give power to the State and the national government. States and the national government share power. Hamilton believed it prevented tyranny by the federal government, increased political participation by the people, and created a testing ground in the States for new policies.
  • National Powers: Enumerated and implied powers are given to the national government. Enumerated powers are specifically granted to the federal government, while implied are not mentioned in the Constitution. Using Implied or Elastic Powers, Congress created a national bank because it had the ability to coin and borrow money.
  • State Powers: States can establish local governments, regulate commerce within the State, and set timing and method of state and local elections. Article Four says that each State must give "Full faith and Credit" to laws of other States.
  • Tenth Amendment: Any power in the Constitution not given to the federal government are reserved to the States and people.
  • Concurrent Powers: These are shared by State and Federal Governments. Powers include taxation, establishment of courts, and ability to make and enforce laws.
  • Denied Powers: These are denied to both the State and Federal Governments. Bills of Attainder make something illegal without having a trial. Ex Post Facto Laws mean "after the fact." An act is a crime even if legal at the time it was committed.
  • Nationalization: The first stage of federalism took place between 1789 and 1830. This is a period that that expanded the national government. Chief Justice John Marshall strengthened the federal government. Marshall put judicial review into the job description of the Supreme Court.
  • Marshall Court: He set out to strengthen the federal government through the legal decisions the court made. It interpreted several enumerated powers by giving Congress broad powers. In the 1819 case of McCulloch v. Maryland, the court decided that based on the enumerated powers for Congress to issue currency and levy taxes, the federal government could charter a national bank.
  • Dual Federalism Part I: The second stage took place between the 1830s to 1860s. After Chief Justice Marshall left, he was replaced by Chief Justice Taney. The Taney court decided the federal government had grown big enough and set out to control it using the concept of concurrent powers. It tried to increase State rights and independence.
  • Nullification Doctrine: States can nullify or reject federal laws that they found unfair or foolish. While it never became law, it did stir up heavy debates between federal and State governments.
  • Slavery: It divided the nation intellectually and geographically. Southern States relied heavily on slave labor because of crop-based commerce.
  • Vice-President John Calhoun: He served in office between 1825-1832. He thought that if a State found a federal law oppressive to its independence, it could initiate nullification. Southern States believed restrictions on slavery should be thrown out by the process of nullification.
  • Dual Federalism Part II: The third stage took place between the 1860s to 1930s. State powers were increased, but they were still not exactly equal to the federal government. Chief Justice Salmon Chase kept the growth of the federal government to a minimum. In Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, the Chase Court decided that civil rights were State matters, not federal. It ruled that segregation did not go against civil rights. States could provide separate but equal facilities for blacks and whites. This decision was upheld until 1954.
  • Cooperative Federalism: The fourth stage took place during the Great Depression of 1929 and lasted from the 1930s to 1960s. President Franklin D. Roosevelt or FDR created a massive bunch of programs called the New Deal that gave the federal government lots of control over the economy and industry. It increased cooperation between the Federal, State, and Local governments. The responsibilities and roles of government were intertwined and interdependent.
  • Creative Federalism: The fifth stage took place in the 1960s and lasted into the 1970s. President Lyndon B. Johnson or LBJ used grant programs called the Great Society to make States more reliant on the federal government. It increased federal control over the States.
  • Grant: This is money that the federal government gives a State government for a specific or undetermined purpose. A block grant gives the State the freedom to use funds in a specified area of government. Categorical grants are funds given to a State for a specific purpose. It does not allow a State too choose where it directs the funds. Grants restricted States by controlling money it gave them.
  • New Federalism: The sixth stage took place between the 1970s and 1990s. President Nixon proposed Revenue Sharing as a method of redistributing federal money to States. It did not restrict money to specific purpose like many grants did. It lessoned federal control over the States.
  • Competitive Federalism: Stage seven began in the 1990s. It increased competition for the limited federal funds. Federal Mandates force States to comply with certain laws.