The Constitution

  • Created by: Harry
  • Created on: 10-06-14 15:31

The Philadelphia Convention

A convention held in 1787 which framed the US Constitution

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Codified constitution

A constitution that consists of a full and authoritative set of rules written down in a single text

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Why has the Constitution been amended so rarely?

  • Founding Forefathers made it a difficult process
  • Made it deliberatley unspecific
  • The Supreme Court can interpret its meaning leading to 'interpretative amendments' rather than 'formal amendments'
  • Americans have become cautious of tampering with it after the short lived prohibition amendment
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Constitutional rights

The fundamental rights guaranteed by the federal Constitution

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Separation of powers

A theory of governmnet whereby political power is distributed among three branches of government, acting both independently and interdependently

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Limited government

A principle that the size and scope of the federal government should be limited to that which is necessary only for the common good of the people

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Checks on the legislature by the excecutive

  • Recommend legislation
  • Veto legislation
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Checks on the legislature by the judiciary

  • Judicial review
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Checks on the executive by the legislature

  • Amend/delay/reject legislation
  • Override president's veto
  • Power of the purse
  • Declare war
  • Ratify treaties (Senate)
  • Confirm appointments (Senate)
  • Investigation
  • Impeachment, trial, conviction and removal from office
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Checks on the executive by the judiciary

  • Judicial review
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Checks on the judiciary by the legislature

  • Impeachment, trial, conviction, and removal from office
  • Propose constitutional amendments
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Checks on the judiciary by the executive

  • Appointment of judges
  • Pardon
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Does the US Constitution still work?


  • Federalism is an excellent compromise between strong national government and state government diversity
  • The text has been very adpatable to american society
  • The amendent process usually prevents ill-conceived amendments
  • Rights and liberties of Americans have been protected
  • Supreme Court as made the Constitution more adaptable to change
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Does the US Constitution still work?


  • Amendment process is too difficult making it impossible to remove out-dated parts or add necessary changes
  • Supreme Court has to much power to 'amend' the meaning of the Constitution through judicial review
  • The Constitution is too negative
  • Some parts make no sense in today's society e.g. the Second Amendment
  • Some parts don't work as the Framers envisaged e.g. war-making power
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What is federalism?

A theory of government by which political power is divided between a national government and state governments, each having their own area of substantive jurisdiction

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Why did the role of the federal government increas

  • Westward expansion
  • The growth of the population
  • Industrialisation
  • Improvements in communication
  • The Great Depression
  • Foreign policy
  • Supreme Court decisions
  • Constitutional amendments
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What are the consequences of federalism?

  • Legal consequences - a large variety in state laws e.g. the death penalty
  • Policy consequences - states can act as policy laboratories e.g. the legalisation of marijuana in Colarado
  • Political consequences - all elections are state-based and run under state law
  • Consequences for political parties - parties are de-centralised and the US is essentially a 100 party system
  • Economic consequences- federal grants given to the states as well as varying levels of taxation
  • Regionalism - the regions have become distinct
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What are the pros of federalism?

  • Permits diversity
  • Creates more access points in government
  • Better protection of individual rights
  • States are policy laboratories
  • Well suited to a geographically large nation
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What are the cons of federalism?

  • Can mask economic and racial inequalities
  • The federal-state government relationship is a continual source of conflict and controversy
  • Overly bureaucratic - costly to run and resistant to change
  • Frustrates the 'national will', making solving problems more complex
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The process of amending the Constitution

  • A two step process
  • Both steps need super majorities of more than 50% (e.g. a two-thirds or three-quarters majority)
  • To be proposed there either needs to be a two-thirds majority in both houses or a national constitutional convention needs to be called by at least two-thirds of the states
  • To be ratified either three quarters of the state legislature must vote to ratify or three quarters of the states must hold conventions and vote to ratify
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