Within the first pages of this chapter, we are introduced with the topic of the constitution and actions of Gregory Lee Johnson. The case of Gregory Lee Johnson is about that of him burning an American flag and protesting that when the government became involved, it was against his freedom of speech. This is where the constitution of the United States comes into play and supersedes the ordinary law.
The question though, what exactly is a constitution? A constitution is a nation’s basic laws. Essentially it creates political institutions, provides rights for citizens and holds power within the government. The constitution also holds the unwritten traditions and precedents that have been established. Most people do not always agree with how the constitution is written and don’t always agree with how the government is ran, but this constitution is the basis of how all things are ran.
Next is the Declaration of Independence. Between 1775 and 1776 there was a tremendous amount of discontent with the English and the Continental Congress was in session for that continuous year. When all the men were coming up with ideas and a basis for the Declaration of Independence, most ideas and propositions were adopted from John Locke who argued that humans have all natural rights and are not dependent upon the government. Later this Declaration was written primarily by Thomas Jefferson and adopted on July 4th, 1776. Essentially this was written to announce and justify the revolution that was happening. Lastly, all the colonists needed foreign assistance to conquest the most powerful nation in the world.
Going back to fully understand Locke and his ideas, we take a look at the idea that Locke was one of the most influential philosophers of this time. John Locke built most of his philosophy on the idea of natural rights. Natural rights are rights inherent of people and who are not dependent on the government. Also, John argued that the government should be built upon the consent of the governed, meaning that people agree on who their rulers
are. He also argued that our nation should have a limited government so that there are restrictions on what a ruler can do. As Locke was coming up with his philosophy, he came up with a brilliant idea that governments should have standing laws in which people know if an act is acceptable or not before doing it.
Now we come to the point of the government the failed. Congress was needed to make a plan for the permanent union of the states and the first plan to the constitution was the Articles of Confederation. The Articles only initially established a legislature with one house which was a big problem at the time and would be a big problem today. There was no president at the time, no national court and the powers were extremely limited for the national legislature. After the states ratified this Article, problems were still proceeding. This included that Congress was only able to maintain an army and navy, no more. All in all, Congress had no power. The only advantage to the Articles of confederation was that when the new Constitution was written, the writers knew the things to avoid.
Next was the issue of economic turmoil and the Shays rebellion. After the war, many farmers were left with a debt that could not be paid and were threatened that their farms would be lost. So in order to try and pay this, many printed paper money which was worthless and tried to pay the outstanding debt back. Now the farmers felt a sigh of relief when the Shays rebellion took place. This was a series of attacks on courthouses to prevent the judges from having farmers and their families foreclose on the farms.
Now we officially decided to make a constitution at the Philadelphia convention. Fifty five delegates were chosen to write what became the U.S. Constitution. Most these people were wealthy planters or successful merchants and lawyers. Most issue differed in the aspect of debates on big-issues to the self-interest of very small issues. Most men in fact did not share the same political aspect and some issues arose from this. In fact, all these men had a very cynical view point of human nature and believed that men love power. As the words of this document were written, factions arose up. Factions are parties or interest groups. Most of the delegates believed that if a government is ran by factions, the government would be prone to instability, tyranny and that of violence.
So, within the Declaration of Independence, there are three issues that arise. First was the issue of equality. This issue was basically that of states coming up with different plans and hoping it would work. The New Jersey Plan, the Virginia Plan and the Connecticut Compromise were all different in aspects of what should be done. Another issue was that of the economy. The writers of the Constitution committed to a strong national government and agreed that the economy was in complete disaster and disarray.
The problem was that paper money was worthless in some states and Congress was having issues raising money due to the fact the economy was in a recession. And lastly were the rights of an individual. The Founders agreed that it was important to safeguard individualism and keep threats away from personal freedom. The Constitution offers protections, including that of upholding the right to a trial by jury and that of not looking at a person’s religion to withhold them from a governmental position.
Now we take a look at the ratification of the Constitution. In order for this Constitution to be processed, it needed to be ratified by nine of the thirteen states. But there were problems that occurred for this to be ratified because there were federalists and anti-federalist. Federalists supported the Constitution and anti-federalists did not. This is where the big issue arose. Some of the differences these groups faced were one being that anti-federalists preferred a strong government while the federalists preferred a weak one. Another problem was that the anti-federalists wanted a direct election of governmental officials and the federalists did not.
Lastly was the inclusion of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was the first ten amendments to the Constitution in response to the concerns of the anti-federalists. The amendments actually give us the basic liberties, that of freedom of speech or religion. Yet the road to the Constitution and the ratification of it was not easy, the work of these men made it possible and fought to make it work. Without the work of these men, We would not be where we are today and life as we know it would be completely different.