The US constitution

notes on the US constitution 

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  • Created by: chrissie
  • Created on: 14-05-13 16:15
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1776 ­ the colonies declared their independence from the UK
1776 ­ 83 ­ there followed war of independence between the colonies and UK
1781 ­ the newly independent colonies established a confederacy by the
Articles of confederation
1787 ­ the confederacy proved to be a disaster with insufficient power for
national government, so the Philadelphia convention drew up a new constitution
The writing of the federal constitution
o The Philadelphia convention was made up of 55 delegates representing
12 of the 13 states (Rhode island refused to send delegates)
o Wanted a federal form of government in which some political power rests
with the national government but other powers rest with state governments
o The convention consisted of 2 plans
o The New Jersey Plan, which was favoured by states with smaller
populations, was designed to strengthen the Articles of Confederation.
They wanted one vote per state, regardless of size. Also wanted national
government powers to be limited, for a weak executive and a judiciary
appointed by the executive.
o The Virginia Plan, which was favoured by states with larger populations,
wanted a strong national government which would be supreme, a
bicameral legislature, a strong executive and a judiciary appointed by the
o Both plans had divided support ­ deadlock
o This was broken by the Connecticut Promise which adopted features
from both plans. Agrees on 2 chambers lower House would be
representing states proportionally, and upper House equally. Also
compromised that the president should be indirectly elected.
The Amendment Process
o The Founding Fathers made the process deliberately difficult
o It is a two stage process requiring super majorities of more than 50%
o Stage 1 is the proposal stage ­ proposals can be made by Congress
with a twothirds majority, or by a national constitution convention called at
the request of twothirds of state legislatures (never been used)
o No national constitution convention has every been called although by
1992, 32 state legislatures had petitioned Congress for a convention to
propose a balanced budget amendment, just two states short of required
o Stage 2 is the ratification stage. This can be made by threequarters of
the state legislatures or threequarters of the states holding a
constitutional convention
o This has only been used once ­ in 1933 to ratify the 21st amendment
o During Clinton's presidency, there were 17 votes on proposed
constitutional amendments, which all occurred during the 6 years of both
Houses being controlled by Congress. The House agreed to a Balanced
Budget amendment (1995) and a Flag Desecration Amendment though
the Senate didn't agree

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During Bush's presidency there were six further attempts to amend the
constitution, but only three of these got the majority vote
o 27 out of 33 amendments have been ratified
The bill of Rights and later amendments
o Of the 27 amendments, the first ten were proposed together by Congress
in 1789 and are collectively known as the Bill of Rights
o The Bill of Rights was designed to protect Americans against an over
powerful federal government
o 17 further amendments have been passed
Why…read more

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The constitution draw up at the Philadelphia convention in 1787 divided
the national government into three branches
o The Founding Fathers wanted to avoid tyranny
o They wanted the branches to be independent yet coequal, check the
power of others, have limited government, be separate in terms of
o John Kerry had to give up being senator for Massachusetts to become
the Secretary of State in 2013
Checks by the executive on the legislature
o The president is able to recommend…read more

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In 2005 Senators forced Harriet Miers to withdraw as a nominee to the
Supreme Court
7) Congress may investigate actions and policies of the executive
Congress investigated Bush's handling of security issues before and after
8) Congress may impeach any member of the executive
Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998
Checks by the legislature on the judiciary
o Congress has the power of impeachment, trial and removal from office
o In between 1986 and 1989, congress removed three federal judges from
office Harry Claiborne…read more

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Congress has only overridden a veto of its own party twice in the last 50
Federalism and the constitution
o Involves a degree of centralisation
o The compromise between a strong central government and a state's
o The words `federal'/'federalism' are not mentioned in the constitution, but
it was written into the powers/implied powers of the federal government
o Federal government were given concurrent powers ­ power to tax
o The 10th amendment reserved all remaining powers `to the states and to…read more

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Brought the need for government regulation
Federal executive departments for commerce/labour formed in 1903
While the nation grew in size, it shrunk in terms of accessibility and
modern methods of communication developed
Journeys improved and became quicker as roads, railways, and aircrafts
Radio and television brought instant communication, national identity
People could communicate through telephone, tax and email
States took to the government to cure their ills in 1929
State governments did not possess necessary resources to reverse…read more

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Federal and state government had distinct areas of responsibility which
was called `layercake' federalism
Cooperative federalism
o The era in which the federal and state governments cooperated to solve
the problems facing US society from the 1930s ­ 1960s poverty, health
o Associated with four Democratic presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry
Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson
o During this era, the role of federal government increased significantly and
new federal executive departments were created to cope with new policy
areas Defence (1949), Health, Education and Welfare…read more

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Criticised for not vetoing expensive federal government programmes and
he failed to use a single veto during his entire first term
o Criticised for poor planning and inefficient coordination for Hurricane
Katrina in 2005
o Criticised in 2008 when Bush authorised Secretary of Treasury Henry
Paulson to take control of two troubled, privately owned but government
sponsored mortgage companies ­ `Fannie May' and `Freddie Mac'
o Followed by Bush white house sponsored $700 billion bail out package
for Wall Street to alleviate effects of credit…read more

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Arizona has experimented with online voting and Montana entirely with a
postal ballot
o Political parties are decentralised and largely state based
o Texas democrats are more conservative than Massachusetts democrats
o Huge federal grants go to states
o Complex tax system income is by federal states and some state
governments, property tax is by state governments, sales tax is to cities
o Regions of south, Midwest, northeast, west etc.…read more



really good notes thankyou :)

Do you have any for Congress, Presidency and Supreme Court?

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