Constituition Apporved - History

Constituition Apporved - History

1787- Constituition Approved

For seventeen weeks, from May 25th to September 17th, delegates debated the details of the proposed Constitution. The primary debate was between those who believed in a stronger federal government and those who wished the states to retain power.

The final draft of the Constitution was constructed of a bundle of compromises. Having two houses in Congress, one based on population (the House of Representatives) and the other based on number of states (the Senate), was one compromise reached between states with large and small populations. The Electoral College came about as a result of a compromise between those who wanted the direct election of a President and those who felt that Congress should elect the President.

Another issue of contention was raised questioning whether slaves could be counted when assessing the population of a given state. As a compromise, states were allowed to count slaves as 3/5 th of a person, in calculating their total populations.

It was decided that slave importation could be continued until 1807, at which point Congress could outlaw it.

Despite clashes over many issues, there was a general agreement on the need to establish a stronger form of government. Under the Articles of Confederation, the United States was a loose confederation of states. Under the Constitution, however, it became a firm union of people.

Unlike the Articles of Confederation, which provided no practical vehicle for its amendation, the Constitution required only a two-thirds majority of states to ratify a constitutional amendment. In addition, while under the Articles of Confederation, Congress required a
two-thirds majority to pass a bill; the Constitution called for a simple majority to pass a bill.

Most importantly, the Constitution provided extensive executive powers to the newly-created office of the President and gave Congress the power to impose taxes. It also created a federal judiciary, and bestowed on the federal government the power to enforce laws.

Constituition Apporved - History

Drafting and ratifying the United States Constitution was a long and arduous process that shaped the future of the new nation.

Learning Objectives

Summarize the debates and compromises that comprised the process of forming the new Constitution

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • During the Constitutional Convention, many debates arose about what a new Constitution and new US government should look like.
  • Questions of representation in the new government were resolved through the Connecticut Compromise and Three-Fifths Compromise.
  • Other notable debates included the debate over slavery, limitations of democracy, and how to prevent the federal government from gaining too much power.
  • Opinions on the new Constitution were deeply divided between Federalists and Anti-Federalists, and the Constitution only narrowly won approval.
  • The Bill of Rights, written in 1789 and adopted in 1791, was added to the Constitution to meet Anti-Federalist demands and ensure individual rights.
  • Despite the Revolutionary ideology that “all men are created equal,” the rights of citizenry excluded slaves, free blacks, Native Americans, and Asians, and women were excluded from voting and property rights this laid the foundation for the United States as a republic of white men.

Key Terms

  • Connecticut Compromise: An agreement that large and small states reached during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, that in part defined the legislative structure and representation that each state would have under the Constitution.
  • Constitutional Convention: A meeting that took place May 25 to September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, with the original purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.
  • Three-Fifths Compromise: An agreement between Southern and Northern states that allowed a portion of the slave population to be counted for representation purposes regarding both the distribution of taxes and apportionment of members of the House of Representatives.
  • Naturalization Act: The first rules for the United States to follow in granting national citizenship they limited naturalization to immigrants who were free white people of good character.

United States Constitution: Through several debates and a long ratification process, the Constitution became the supreme law of the United States of America.

Constitutional Convention

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Constitutional Convention, (1787), in U.S. history, convention that drew up the Constitution of the United States. Stimulated by severe economic troubles, which produced radical political movements such as Shays’s Rebellion, and urged on by a demand for a stronger central government, the convention met in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia (May 25–September 17, 1787), ostensibly to amend the Articles of Confederation. All the states except Rhode Island responded to an invitation issued by the Annapolis Convention of 1786 to send delegates. Of the 74 deputies chosen by the state legislatures, only 55 took part in the proceedings of these, 39 signed the Constitution. The delegates included many of the leading figures of the period. Among them were George Washington, who was elected to preside, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, Oliver Ellsworth, and Gouverneur Morris.

Discarding the idea of amending the Articles of Confederation, the assembly set about drawing up a new scheme of government but found itself divided, delegates from small states (those without claims to unoccupied western lands) opposing those from large states over the apportionment of representation. Edmund Randolph offered a plan known as the Virginia, or large state, plan, which provided for a bicameral legislature with representation of each state based on its population or wealth. William Paterson proposed the New Jersey, or small state, plan, which provided for equal representation in Congress. Neither the large nor the small states would yield. Oliver Ellsworth and Roger Sherman, among others, in what is sometimes called the Connecticut, or Great, Compromise, proposed a bicameral legislature with proportional representation in the lower house and equal representation of the states in the upper house. All revenue measures would originate in the lower house. That compromise was approved July 16.

The matter of counting slaves in the population for figuring representation was settled by a compromise agreement that three-fifths of the slaves should be counted as population in apportioning representation and should also be counted as property in assessing taxes. Controversy over the abolition of the importation of slaves ended with the agreement that importation should not be forbidden before 1808. The powers of the federal executive and judiciary were enumerated, and the Constitution was itself declared to be the “supreme law of the land.” The convention’s work was approved by a majority of the states the following year.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.


Georgia has had ten different constitutions in its history, not counting its royal charter, granted in 1732. The charter, approved by George II of Great Britain (the colony's namesake), placed Georgia under the control of Trustees, led by James Oglethorpe. The Trustees governed Georgia until 1752, when they surrendered their charter. Georgia then became a crown colony. [2]

Antebellum constitutions (1776, 1777, 1790, 1798, and 1861) Edit

Prior to having a formal constitution, a document entitled Rules and Regulations of the Colony of Georgia, drafted in 1776, was in effect. [3] This document was designed to be temporary and made the Provincial Congress the most powerful branch of government. [4] A year later, in 1777, the first formal constitution was drafted. This document also made the legislature the most powerful branch, with the governor being forced to rely on his executive council for many decisions. Additionally, the constitution allowed for an expansive franchise, with only the poorest excluded. [5] These provisions resulted from the domination of the 1777 convention by "radicals" as opposed to the more moderate faction found in other states. [6]

The adoption of the new federal constitution obliged Georgia to implement a new state one. Following three separate conventions, [7] a new constitution was adopted in 1789. The new document replaced the unicameral Congress with a bicameral General Assembly. The executive council was abolished, and the legislature given power to elect the governor. Additionally, freedom of speech, trial by jury, and freedom of religion were guaranteed. [8] In 1795, a convention met to amend the recently-adopted constitution. [9] These amendments reapportioned the House of Representatives amongst the counties, with each county receiving one state senator. Additionally, the state capital was moved from Savannah to Louisville, and another convention scheduled for 1797 to further amend the document. [8]

In between the two conventions, the Yazoo land scandal dominated Georgia politics. The majority of the state legislature became implicated in the scandal, which involved Georgia's western lands (present-day Alabama and Mississippi). As a result, a number of legislators lost re-election, and reforms to property laws were enacted by their successors. [10] Shortly after, the convention authorized in 1795 was postponed until 1798. James Jackson, Georgia's former U.S. Senator, played the dominant role in this convention as the governor at the time. [11] The constitution produced by this new convention bore several similarities to the 1789 constitution. While the House was apportioned by population, each county was still guaranteed at least one representative. Notably, the new document prohibited land sales similar to those which prompted the Yazoo fraud. [12] The 1802 cession by which Georgia transferred its western lands to the federal government rendered much of this provision moot, though it still applied to those lands Georgia eventually gained following the removal of the Cherokee people. [13] This constitution would be amended twenty-three times before the Civil War. [14]

Just before the start of the Civil War, Georgia's Secession Convention drafted a new constitution for the state, led largely by Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb, the Convention's chairman. [15] The new constitution largely left in place the framework of government found under the 1798 constitution, as amended. It did, however, include a longer bill of rights which was not found in the 1798 document. [16]

Post-bellum constitutions (1865, 1868, and 1877) Edit

Following the Civil War, a new constitution was drafted in 1865. In the aftermath of the war, the federal government oversaw the state's transition back into the Union. President Andrew Johnson appointed a provisional governor, who then convened a convention to draft a new constitution. [17] The document retained many of the provisions of the 1861 constitution, including the bill of rights it had introduced. Major changes included a two-term limit for governors and the legislative election, rather than gubernatorial appointment of the Supreme Court. Additionally, Superior Court judges became popularly elected. [18] The convention also abolished slavery in the state, although with great reluctance. [19] Indeed, the constitution labeled the abolition of slavery "a war measure" by the federal government and also provided for compensation to slaveholders for the loss of their property. [18]

The 1865 Constitution had been adopted during the era of Presidential Reconstruction. In 1866, however, Congress passed the Military Reconstruction Acts, which placed Georgia and other former Confederate states under military rule. As a result, African Americans began to participate in the state government, along with "scalawags" who cooperated with the U.S. military. [20] This new state government called for another convention to adopt a new constitution in 1868. Additionally, a number of "carpetbaggers," Northerners who moved to the South following the war, participated in the convention. [21] The new state constitution aimed to provide rights for African Americans and promote racial equality in the state. Its bill of rights incorporated the 14th Amendment into the state constitution, and suffrage was granted to all males over the age of 21 regardless of race. The state government also was tasked with creating a system of public education. Additionally, the governor's term of office was extended to four years, with no limit, and the practice of electing judges was ended. The document also required amendments to be approved by popular vote rather than just by the state legislature and moved the capital to Atlanta. [22]

In 1870, Georgia was readmitted to the Union, and, by 1872, Democrats regained control of the state legislature. Many of these Democrats identified as Bourbons, a faction representing the antebellum elite. [23] With their return to power, the old elites quickly saw the need for a new constitution and called for a convention in 1877 to draft one. [24] While much of the government structure remained the same, the new constitution restricted the power of the legislature significantly, including an two articles devoted to taxation and state finances. [25] The two-year term for governors was reintroduced, along with the two-term limit. The document, in a reversal from 1868, mandated the segregation of the state's public schools. A prohibition of the creation of new counties was also included. [26] Following its adoption, the 1877 constitution was amended numerous times. Many dealt with the structure of government, altering legislative apportionment and powers, introducing popular elections of judges. 188 amendments alone were made to Article VII, concerning state finances, mostly in regard to specific cities and counties. A number of new counties were also created by amendment. [27] Most notably, an amendment in 1943 lowered the voting age to eighteen. This amendment made Georgia the first state to do so. [28]

20th-century constitutions (1945 and 1976) Edit

All constitutions up until 1945 were drafted by constitutional convention. [29] That year, Governor Ellis Arnall appointed a twenty-three member commission, composed of all three branches of government, to write a new constitution. [1] In August 1945, a popular vote ratified the new document. The new document, however, did not represent a great change from the old constitution. 90% of the 1877 constitution's provisions (as amended) remained intact. [30] Once again, an extensive bill of rights was included in the new document. The new document also made permanent several changes made over the years, including setting the voting age at eighteen and the introduction of a literacy test for voters. Other changes included provisions dealing with agencies created after 1877, including the State Board of Corrections and the office of Commissioner of Agriculture. Some changes also affected local government in the state, including a cap on the number of counties at 159 (which remains the case today), and the introduction of provisions for home rule. [31]

Subsequent to the new document's adoption, a number of provisions came under judicial scrutiny and were subsequently struck down. School segregation, mandated by Article VIII, was held to violate the U.S. Constitution by the Supreme Court in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education. Georgians resisted the decision, but a number of court decisions eventually forced the state's residents to comply. [32] The system of legislative apportionment, along with Georgia's unique system to count votes in primary elections, were struck down in 1963 by the Court in the case of Gray v. Sanders due to their basis in counties rather than population. [33]

These cases led many to consider revisions to the constitution. Efforts in the late 1960s were rejected, however, due to the continued malapportionment of the legislature. In 1974, George Busbee won the gubernatorial election on a platform of constitutional revision. By the time of Busbee's election, the constitution contained 831 amendments and was the nation's longest. The 1976 revision, however, produced little change beyond reorganizing the document's provisions. [1] [34] These amendments, now incorporated into the constitution, included correcting the legislative malapportionment and the establishment of a Lieutenant Governor position. [35]

Constitution of 1983 Edit

In 1977, a select committee was created to discuss revision of the 1976 constitution. Members included the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Attorney General, representatives of the General Assembly and the judicial branch. [1] Agreement on a constitution was made in August 1981 and in August and September of that year the document was submitted to the General Assembly in a special session. [1] The constitution was approved on 25 September 1981 and went to vote in the general election and was ratified on 2 November 1982. The current Constitution streamlined the previous one and did away with authorization for local amendments. [36]

The Constitution consists of a Preamble and eleven Articles.

Preamble: Statement of Purpose Edit

To perpetuate the principles of free government, insure justice to all, preserve peace, promote the interest and happiness of the citizen and of the family, and transmit to posterity the enjoyment of liberty, we the people of Georgia, relying upon the protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution. [37]

The Preamble to the Georgia State Constitution is a brief introductory statement describing the principles which the Constitution is meant to serve. It expresses in general terms the intentions of its authors. It does not grant nor prohibit any authority to the state government. However, it has at times been used by the Supreme Court of Georgia to help in deciding a case. For instance, the Preamble was cited in 1982 in Roberts v. Ravenwood Church of Wicca, and later the portion of the Preamble which states ". promote the interest and happiness of the citizen and of the family. " was used in several court cases regarding family issues such as Clabough v. Rachwal, Dixon v. Dixon and Arnold v. Arnold. [38] [39]

Article I: Bill of Rights Edit

Article One describes the Georgia Bill of Rights. These are the Rights of Persons, the Origin and Structure of Government and other General Provisions. [40] The first Section, the Rights of Persons, lists twenty-eight paragraphs of individual rights. Many of these rights are similar to the rights listed in the United States Bill of Rights. Yet, there are differences. For instance, the Georgia Bill of Rights lists among its freedoms the Freedom of Conscience, which is the "natural and inalienable right to worship God, each according to the dictates of that person's own conscience" without interference and adds the right to religious opinion along with freedom of religion. [40] Section II describes the "origin and foundation of government", the "object of government" the separation of powers and the superiority of civil authority over military authority. Also, this section explicitly describes the separation of church and state. [40] Finally, Section III, General Provisions, deals with Eminent Domain, private ways and Tidewater titles. [40]

Article II: Voting and Elections Edit

Article Two describes Voting and Elections in Georgia. Specifically, the three Sections of the Article deal with the method of voting and the right to register and vote general provisions and suspension and removal of public officials. [41]

Article III: Legislative Branch Edit

Article Three describes the Legislative Branch of Georgia's government. The Article establishes legislative powers the General Assembly's composition officers of the General Assembly organizations and procedures the enactment of laws the exercise of legislative power method of impeachment insurance regulation appropriations and retirement systems. [42] Representatives must be at least 21 years old, have been a citizen of the state for at least two years, and be a resident of their district for at least one year. [42] Senators must be 25 years old, have been a citizen for two years, and live in the district they represent for at least one year. [42] Article Three establishes meetings, time limit and adjournment of the General Assembly and allows each house to establish its own rules of procedure, provide for its own employees and interim committees may be created by the General Assembly or by either house. [42]

Article IV: Constitutional Boards and Commissions Edit

Article Four describes Constitutional Boards and Commissions. This Article consists of seven Sections describing six boards and commissions and their powers. Section I deals with the creation of a Public Service Commission to regulate utilities. Section II created a State Board of Pardons and Paroles. Section III instituted a State Personnel Board and Section IV created the State Transportation Board. Sections V and VI are responsible for the Veterans Service. [43]

Article V: Executive Branch Edit

Article Five describes the Executive Branch of Georgia's government. This Article is made up of four Sections. Section I details the election of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Section II lists the duties and powers of the Governor. Section III discusses other elected officials and Section IV discusses the disability of executive officers and how to go about choosing a successor should an executive officer become permanently disabled. [44]

Article VI: Judicial Branch Edit

Article Six describes the Judicial Branch of Georgia's government. This Article contains ten Sections which discuss the different courts and their powers and jurisdictions. Article Six also details the role of the district attorney in Georgia's justice system. [45] Article Six also solidified the courts which, prior to the current constitution, were terribly fragmented. [38]

Article VII: Taxation and Finance Edit

Article Seven deals with Taxation and Finance in Georgia. There are four Sections, each dealing with the power of taxation exemptions from ad valorem tax purposes and methods of state taxation and state debt. [46] Powers of taxation cited in the Constitution include the limitation on grants of tax powers taxing power limited and uniformity of taxation. Also included are the classification of property assessment of agricultural land and utilities. [46] Sections II and III, dealing with exemptions from ad valorem taxation and purposes and methods of state taxation respectively, focus on voiding unauthorized tax exemptions exemptions from taxation on property locally authorized exemptions purposes for which powers may be exercised regarding taxation revenue and the general fund and grants to counties and municipalities. Section IV's role regarding state debt is spelled out in eleven different paragraphs. [46]

Article VIII: Education Edit

Article Eight of the Constitution describes Education. This Article deals with public schools boards and offices responsible for education local school systems taxation and educational assistance. [47]

Article IX: Counties and Municipal Corporations Edit

Article Nine describes Counties and Municipal Corporations. Article Nine contains seven Sections concerning counties home rule for counties and municipalities intergovernmental relations taxation power of county and municipal governments limitation on local debt revenue bonds and community improvement districts. [48]

Article X: Amendments to the Constitution Edit

Article Ten of the Constitution describes Amendments to the Constitution. This Article has only one Section with nine paragraphs discussing amendments. [49]

Article XI: Miscellaneous Provisions Edit

Article Eleven of the Constitution describes Miscellaneous Provisions. The Article contains one Section with six paragraphs discussing the continuation of officers, boards, commissions, and authorities judicial review and the preservation of existing law (law prior to the creation and ratification of the Constitution of 1983) confirmation of proceedings of courts and administrative tribunals the continuation of a number of amendments for the next four years following the 1983 constitution going into effect special commissions created and the date when the constitution became effective. [50]

Article X of the Georgia Constitution provides provisions for changing the constitution. Specifically Paragraphs I, II, and IV deal with the subject. To amend the constitution or to begin a constitutional convention for the creation of a new document, such amendments must be proposed by the General Assembly, according to Paragraph I. [49] Furthermore, such a proposal must originate as a resolution in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. [49] Then, the "proposal by the convention to amend this Constitution or for a new Constitution shall be advertised, submitted to, and ratified by the people in the same manner provided for advertisement, submission, and ratification of proposals to amend the Constitution by the General Assembly," according to Paragraph IV. [49]

East Germany approves new constitution

In a precursor to the establishment of a separate, Soviet-dominated East Germany, the People’s Council of the Soviet Zone of Occupation approves a new constitution. This action, together with the U.S. policy of pursuing an independent pathway in regards to West Germany, contributed to the permanent division of Germany.

The postwar status of Germany had become a bone of contention between the United States and the Soviet Union even before World War II ended. The Soviet Union wanted assurances that Germany would be permanently disarmed and demanded huge reparations from the postwar German government. The United States, however, was hesitant to commit to these demands. By 1945, many U.S. officials began to see the Soviet Union as a potential adversary in the postwar world and viewed a reunified-and pro-West-Germany as valuable to the defense of Europe. When the war ended in May 1945, Russian forces occupied a large portion of Germany, including Berlin. Negotiations between the United States, Russia, Britain, and France resulted in the establishment of occupation zones for each nation. Berlin was also divided into zones of occupation. While both the United States and Russia publicly called for a reunified Germany, both nations were coming to the conclusion that a permanently divided Germany might be advantageous.

For the United States, West Germany, with its powerful economy and potential military strength, would make for a crucial ally in the developing Cold War. The Soviets came to much the same conclusion in regards to East Germany. When, in 1949, the United States proposed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (a military and political alliance between America and several European states) and began to discuss the possible inclusion of a remilitarized West Germany in NATO, the Soviets reacted quickly. The new constitution for East Germany, approved by the People’s Council of the Soviet Zone of Occupation (a puppet legislative body dominated by the Soviets), made clear that the Russians were going to establish a separate and independent East Germany. In October 1949, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was declared. Months earlier, in May, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) had been formally proclaimed. Germany remained a divided nation until the collapse of the communist government in East Germany and reunification in 1990.

List of amendments to the United States Constitution

Thirty-three amendments to the United States Constitution have been proposed by the United States Congress and sent to the states for ratification since the Constitution was put into operation on March 4, 1789. Twenty-seven of these, having been ratified by the requisite number of states, are part of the Constitution. The first ten amendments were adopted and ratified simultaneously and are known collectively as the Bill of Rights. Six amendments adopted by Congress and sent to the states have not been ratified by the required number of states. Four of these amendments are still pending, one is closed and has failed by its own terms, and one is closed and has failed by the terms of the resolution proposing it. All 33 amendments are listed and detailed in the tables below.

Article Five of the United States Constitution details the two-step process for amending the nation's frame of government. Amendments must be properly proposed and ratified before becoming operative. This process was designed to strike a balance between the excesses of constant change and inflexibility. [1]

An amendment may be proposed and sent to the states for ratification by either:

  • The U.S. Congress, whenever a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives deem it necessary or
  • A national convention, called by Congress for this purpose, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the states (34 since 1959). [2][3][4] The convention option has never been used.

To become part of the Constitution, an amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 since 1959) by either (as determined by Congress):

  • The legislatures of three-fourths of the states or in three-fourths of the states. [3][4] The only amendment to be ratified through the state convention method thus far is the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933. That amendment is also the only one that explicitly repeals an earlier one, the Eighteenth Amendment (ratified in 1919), establishing the prohibition of alcohol. [5]

When a constitutional amendment is sent to the states for ratification, the Archivist of the United States is charged with responsibility for administering the ratification process under the provisions of 1 U.S.C. § 106b. [6] Then, upon being properly ratified, the archivist issues a certificate proclaiming that an amendment has become an operative part of the Constitution. [3]

Beginning in the early 20th century, Congress has usually, but not always, stipulated that an amendment must be ratified by the required number of states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states in order to become part of the Constitution. Congress's authority to set a ratification deadline was affirmed in 1939 by the United States Supreme Court in Coleman v. Miller (307 U.S. 433). [4]

Approximately 11,770 proposals to amend the Constitution have been introduced in Congress since 1789 (as of January 3, 2019). [4] [7] Collectively, members of the House and Senate typically propose around 200 amendments during each two-year term of Congress. [8] Proposals have covered numerous topics, but none made in recent decades have become part of the Constitution. Historically, most died in the congressional committees to which they were assigned. Since 1999, only about 20 proposed amendments have received a vote by either the full House or Senate. The last time a proposal gained the necessary two-thirds support in both the House and the Senate for submission to the states was the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment in 1978. Only 16 states had ratified it when the seven-year time limit expired. [9]

2c. Creating the Constitution

"Nothing spoken or written can be revealed to anyone &mdash not even your family &mdash until we have adjourned permanently. Gossip or misunderstanding can easily ruin all the hard work we shall have to do this summer." -George Washington, presiding officer

The Constitution was written in secrecy over a summer in Philadelphia. Twelve of the thirteen states were represented. Once the drafters signed the Constitution, as seen here, it began to make a slow path around the states in search of ratification.

Constitutional Convention

Most of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention had already risked being hanged as traitors by the British. No wonder that they worried about their states' reactions to their decision to abandon the Articles of Confederation and create a whole new document.

Persuading the states to accept the Constitution was every bit as difficult as they predicted. It took two years for all thirteen states to ratify it. But their product was a blueprint for a new kind of government based on the principles of separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism.

Separation of Powers

The Constitution is the basis of the United States government. All debates over laws have the few pages of the Constitution as their basis, and much political conflict has arisen due to different traditions of interpreting its clauses.

The Constitution provided for the structure and powers of Congress in Article I . It created a bicameral legislature , set qualifications for holding office in each house, and provided for methods of selecting representatives and senators. It carefully enumerated powers, such as regulating interstate commerce and declaring wars. Article II vested the power to execute laws in a president of the United States. It set the president's term at four years, stated qualifications for office, and provided a mechanism to remove him from office.

The president 's constitutional powers are very modest, but they include commander-in-chief of the armed forces, negotiator of foreign treaties, and appointer of ambassadors, judges, and other "officers of the United States." Article III established a Supreme Court and defines its jurisdiction. The Founders disagreed on how much power to give the judges , but they ultimately gave judges appointments for life and forbid Congress to lower their salaries while they hold office.

Checks and Balances

The Founders were ever mindful of the dangers of tyrannical government . So they built a system in which the powers of each branch would be used to check the powers of the other two branches. Additionally, each house of the legislature could check one another. For example, both houses of Congress must vote to enact laws, the president can veto legislation, and the Supreme Court can rule laws unconstitutional. Congress can override presidential vetoes. The president nominates Supreme Court justices, but the Senate can refuse to confirm the nominees. The Congress can impeach and remove the president or a member of the Supreme Court. As a result, a "balance" was created among the three branches.

He may have been an elegant and refined statesman, but Alexander Hamilton's temper got him involved in a duel with Aaron Burr that resulted in death.

Wide differences of opinion existed even among the 55 delegates concerning the proper balance between liberty and order. Alexander Hamilton , for example, valued order more than liberty and supported the creation of a very strong executive. James Madison, influenced by his mentor Thomas Jefferson, conceded that an executive was necessary, but he saw the legislature as the preserver of liberty and an important check on the power of the executive. George Washington's experience as the head of the Continental Army during the revolution convinced him that the chaotic government needed more structure. Thomas Jefferson did not attend the convention because he was serving as ambassador to France, but his belief that "a little rebellion now and then" was a good thing tilted his balance more toward liberty.


Article IV defined the relationship between the federal government and the states in a system of federalism , which divides the power of government between national and state governments. This federal system was meant to correct the chaos of the country during the Articles of Confederation. However, it was still mindful of the threat of a tyrannical central government. This article included mechanisms for admitting new states to the Union.

Alexander Hamilton was one of the most important proponents of federalism at the Constitutional Convention. He presented a plan to create a strong executive branch, out of a belief that order is more important than liberty.

The relationship between national and state governments was defined in many other parts of the Constitution. For example, Article 1, Section 10 forbids the states to form alliances or enter with foreign countries or to coin their own money. Federalism was further defined in Article VI in which the constitution was declared "the Supreme Law of the Land." This supremacy clause , as well as the "elastic" clause (Article I, Section 8) tilts the federalist balance toward national law.

Article V provides methods of amending the Constitution. Only 27 amendments have been added to the constitution since the ratification in 1789.

The Founders acted boldly in 1787 when they threw out the Articles of Confederation and created the Constitution. The document they created has survived for more than 200 years. The risks that they took resulted in the longest lasting written constitution in world history.

Structure of Government under the 1988 Constitution as amended

Under the current Constitution, Brazil is a presidential, federal republic. Through an amendment in 1996, municipalities were incorporated with states as part of the federation. Consequently, the country is composed of 26 states and the Federal District (Brasilia). The federal, state, and municipal governments have their own legislative, executive and judicial institutions. The aim of the 1988 text was to give state and municipal governments administrative autonomy and responsibility for policy implementation, decentralizing the federal power.

The executive branch

The executive is headed by a President who is directly for a four year term. He or She is both head of the state and head of the government. Although all of Brazil's constitutions since 1891 prohibited consecutive presidential terms, a 1997 amendment changed this rule. A president now has no limit on number of terms but may not serve more than two terms consecutively. Of the 48,000 positions the Brazilian President has the power to appoint–including Ministers of State, military officers, and judges—only ambassadors, higher-court judges, the solicitor general, and Central Bank directors must have Senate approval.

The legislative branch

The federal legislative branch is bicameral, consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. There are 513 federal deputies: 3 members from each state and federal district are elected to serve eight-year terms. One-third and two-thirds of members are alternately elected every four years. 81 senators are elected by proportional representation from each state and serve four-year terms.

The judicial branch

The federal judiciary is composed of the Federal Supreme Court, the Superior Court of Justice, regional federal courts, labour courts, the Electoral court and the Military court. The Supreme Federal Court is the highest court and consists of 11 justices appointed by the president and approved by the Senate. The Court can declare federal, state, and municipal laws unconstitutional and therefore null.

System of Government under 1987 Constitution

  • Economic development – how to ensure that economic growth also benefits the poorer classes?
  • Minority rights – how to ensure multi-ethnicity and pluralism for religious and ethnic minorities?
  • De-concentration of power – how to reduce the considerable power of the political and economic elites and give more actual power to the people?
  • Better governance – how to make government more effective in meeting the nation’s aspirations?
  • Spreading growth – how to have more even regional development?
  • Corruption
  • Poor law enforcement and an ineffective justice system
  • Lack of transparency and accountability in public office
  • Polarization between the few who are wealthy and the many who are poor
  • Weak actual protection of the human rights of vulnerable groups (women, children, minorities, journalists, political activists)
  • Involvement of the military in political questions
  • Ending the Muslim insurgency in southern Mindanao

Today in History: The U.S. Constitution is Ratified (1788)

The United States Constitution is considered one of the most important documents in American history, and for good reason. Without the Constitution, the federal government would have little right to govern the states at all.

As a legal document, the United States constitution was very controversial, and has continued to be a source of almost constant argument since its ratification on June 21, 1788. By 1786, the majority of the new country&rsquos leaders knew that the Articles of Confederation, which were the governing force of the country after the US declared independence, were falling apart at the seams. The Articles did not allow for federal authority over foreign trade, interstate trade, currency or taxes. In May 1787, the Constitutional Convention was convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after the congress endorsed a plan to draft a codified constitution.

George Washington led the Constitutional Convention in 1787. History Channel

It took three months, and a number of compromises, but on September 17, 1797, the US Constitution was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates that had been sent by the states to construct a new constitution. The document they created, structured a strong federal government, with a system of checks and balances between three different branches of government. The document was then sent to each of the 13 states, as it wouldn&rsquot be ratified until nine of the states ratified it.

That happened when on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution. The ratification process was a long, drawn out process for many of the states. In fact, it would be 1790 before the last state officially ratified the US Constitution, despite being the document that formed the US Government on March 4, 1789.

Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia and Connecticut all ratified the document very quickly (December of 1787). The rest of the states all had a rougher time of ratifying the Constitution. Massachusetts opposed ratifying the document because it didn&rsquot have a section guaranteeing personal or state rights (something that would be added later with the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights). The only reason Massachusetts agreed to ratify the constitution at all was that there was a compromise struck that guaranteed the bill of protections would be proposed immediately upon the Constitution going into effect. Other states (Maryland and South Carolina) also ratified the Constitution soon after the compromise with Massachusetts was struck.

Constitutional Convention. Wikipedia

After New Hampshire ratified the document, New York and Virginia both followed. On September 25, 1789 the first United States Congress under the new Constitution adopted 12 amendments that would be called the Bill of Rights. Only 10 of them would be ratified in 1791. Rhode Island would not ratify the Constitution until 1790, and only then because the federal government threatened to shut down all commercial relations if they failed to do so.

If for no other reason, the United States Constitution is remarkable because of its longevity. It is the oldest written constitution in the world, and is the benchmark that several other countries have used when writing their own governing documents. It isn&rsquot perfect of course, as noted by the 27 amendments that have been ratified and attached to the original document. It has been called arcane in recent years, but there haven&rsquot been any real attempts to replace it. Despite the constant controversy and reimagining behind the interpretation of the document, it has worked for over 230 years.

Watch the video: The Constitution, the Articles, and Federalism: Crash Course US History #8 (December 2021).