Constitution Revision Notes

All of my notes from last year. I know there's plenty there - hope they help you!

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The US Constitution
Beginnings of American Settlement in 6 Points
1. Stuffing thousands of explorers, tended to be searching for a route to Asia
from the other side
2. After settlement from many different European powers, conflict ensued
3. By 1754, the UK claimed the east and north, France claimed the interior and
northeastern corner and Spain had claimed Florida, Texas and the whole
west coast
4. In 1754 the French attacked and captured a British fort, sparking a war
between the two
5. 1763: The Treaty of Paris ended the Six Year War
6. British Parliament passed an Act to placate the Indians, forbidding
settlement west of the Appalachian Divide. This was the first of many Acts to
lead to the American Revolution
Constitution Questions
1. If men were angels, what would not be necessary and why?
a. Government, because people would not need regulating
2. If angels were to govern men what would not be necessary and why?
a. Neither external nor internal controls on government
3. What is the difficulty in framing a government which is to be administered by
men over men?
a. Government must have control over governed, but must be obliged to
control itself
4. What did Alexander Hamilton propose? Why was this controversial?
a. A monarchy ­ and that's exactly what they were trying to escape from!
5. How was the constitution put together?
a. A gathering of delegates from every state apart form Rhode Island
6. What did "we the People of the United States" want to do?
a. Form a more perfect union
1. What caused the American War of Independence?
a. The 13 colonies existed for the economic benefit of Britain, yet had no
representation ­ "taxation without representation is tyranny"
2. What were the Articles of Confederation?
a. First attempt at a constitution a `league of friendship' ­ a loose
collection of independent states rather than a national government
3. Why were the Articles of Confederation so weak?
a. Nobody wanted to give away their newlyfound powers to a new
centralised government
4. What is a confederacy? Why did the revolutionary leaders like Washington
and Hamilton believe that strong government was essential and that the
Articles of Confederation needed strengthening?

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A `league of independent states in which the central government lacks
significant powers and resembles more an international organisation
­ such as the United Nation ­ than a traditional national government'
the union was far too weak to withstand Britain trying to get the
colonies back
5. What happened at the Philadelphia convention?
a. The Articles were scrapped and instead an entirely new Constitution
was written
6. Why was the convention originally deadlocked?
a.…read more

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Article III: Judicial power goes to a Supreme Court, but Congress can
make and get rid of other little courts occasionally
o Article IV: Relationships between central and local government, and
also between local governments
o Article V: How to change the Constitution
o Article VI: Other stuff, like the `supremacy clause'
o Article VII: How to confirm the Constitution as good and proper
War Powers Act ­ Questions
1. What does the article state the 1973 War Powers Act is an example of?
a.…read more

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Tax cuts
b. Small government (apart from the military)
3. What did Obama want to do?
a. Tax rises
b. Bigger welfare state
4. What did Obama choose to do?
a. A compromise
b. Accepted reduced tax rates for high as well as middle and low
income earners
c. Republicans, for their part, accepted extension of federal
unemployment benefits
5. What pressures do Congressional Republicans have to not compromise?
a.…read more

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Constitution is interpreted makes its value in
modern debate limited at best, and pointless at worst.
c.…read more

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Several hundred amendments have been proposed, but only
27 have made it past both Houses and the state ratification process.
b. It is not just the process of amendment that prevents the Constitution
being tampered with, however. Americans tend to be cautious about
amending the Constitution, somewhat revering it and not wishing to
unnecessarily change it. This is at least partly due to the amendment
that prohibited the manufacture, sale and importation of alcohol ­
which had to be repealed fourteen years later.…read more

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What is `divided government' and how does it affect the system of checks
and balances between the President and Congress?
a. Divided government is the term used to describe a situation in which
one party controls the White House and another controls Congress. In
the forty years between 1969 and 2008, government was divided for
thirty years ­ and for twentytwo of those years, the party not in
government held both houses in Congress, not just one.
b.…read more

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For example, in the case of the Supreme
Court, Congress has to approve all judicial appointments suggested
by the President. Richard Neustadt said that powers are not actually
separate, but rather America has "separate institutions sharing
powers". It is this sharing of virtually all potent powers that prevents
any single institution from being too powerful ­ as it is unable to
dominate the others.
c. Added to this separation of powers are the series of checks and
balances between the various branches of government.…read more

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Federalism is one of the key features of US government, and is
enshrined in the Constitution in a number of ways and for a number of
b. It can be argued that, because federalism is not explicitly mentioned
in the Constitution, it was not seen as particularly crucial when the
Framers were at work.…read more

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To sum up, then, federalism is quite firmly enshrined in the
Constitution and for a variety of reasons ­ virtually all basically related
to the protection of rights and prevention of tyranny.
Essay Questions (45)
1. To what extent is there disagreement about how effectively the constitution
protects freedom?
a. Main Points
i. Bill of rights ­ yes
ii. Erosion of rights ­ e.g. Guantanamo bay
iii. States are able to act pretty much as they wish ­ e.g. abortion,
gay rights no
iv.…read more


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