The ratification of the constitution in 1788 did not end the debate over the nature and functions of the government. Majors concerns arose from the ratification mainly involving too much federal power and not enough rights for African Americans. Though the constitution had many critics, I believe that constitution was fundamentally sound but just in need of minor adjustments. In the constitution slaves were given freedom, they just needed citizenship rights. Another reason is federal power was strong, but it had to be in the early stages of American government. Lastly, the constitution was a good base for all peoples individual rights. The constitution is the basis for how our government is ran to this day. I don’t think it would still be used if it wasn’t useful and important to society.
The 13th amendment to the US constitution, passed in 1865, made slavery illegal in any state. However, it did not give slaves citizenship rights. Whites still felt that they held more power and made discriminatory laws against african americans. For example, a group of free blacks got together in South Carolina and wrote a petition to the Legislature asking for an end to the discriminatory laws. The document shows how the blacks were debarred of their rights to have a jury and give testimony on their own behalf. It also shows that slaves have been considered free citizens of the state and they should be treated that way(Document D). Another example of African American inequality can be shown in Benjamin Bannenker’s letter to Thomas Jefferson regarding the institution of slavery. In summary, Bannenker is showing the contradiction between wanting to break away from the tyrant of the British, and allowing slavery in the US. He quoted the Declaration of Independence by saying that Jefferson wrote we all have unalienable rights, but these rights aren’t being upheld with the institution of slavery and discrimination against blacks(Document C).
Although this should be proving how the constitution was wrong, I think that it shows that the constitution did have a basis by making slavery illegal it just needed changes to make discrimination illegal. Which then later did happen. By 1768 the 14th amendment was passed giving all people the right to be protected equally by the law and made all former slaves citizens. Then in 1770 the 15th amendment was passed, which said that the right of citizens to vote could no longer be based off race, color, or previous condition of servitude. This shows how the constitution was fundamentally sound and just needed small adjustments to make it even more sound.
Another argument to the Constitution was that it gave too much power to the federal government and not enough to the states. This can be seen in the Kentucky Resolutions written anonymously by Thomas Jefferson. He says that the federal government has against the will of states made them the ultimate power and the states only have powers that the federal government didn’t directly give themselves (Document B). Another concerning factor when it came to federal power had to do with Alexander Hamilton. He thought the federal government had the power to start a national bank. Hamilton believed the the government could exercise “implied” powers in addition to the powers given in the constitution(Document A). This scared a lot of people because they didn’t want the federal government to have too much power like it did in Britain. I would agree with the concerns of the people when it came to Hamilton’s viewpoint, but he wanted to do thing that the constitution did not allow.
The federal government having a lot of power to an extent was true. They did hold a lot of power in the beginning stages of the US but, for obvious reasons that was necessary. As time evolved the states did earn more power and now they hold almost just as much power as the federal government. Amendment ten was ratified in 1791 to give states more power. This amendment states that the federal government has only the powers specifically stated in the constitution. By the federal government passing this amendment they showed that they were willing to give up some of their power to the states. Also, the states were given power through congress. Elected officials from each state were represented in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The constitution already had the basis for state power it just needed a little bit more to give the states he power they wanted. That was done through amendment ten.
The constitution has given individuals of the country many rights that are not easy to be found in other countries. It lays the basis for law, and gives all americans an equal opportunity in trials, holding government positions, and voting. Without the fundamental principals laid by our founding fathers in the original constitution we wouldn’t be able to have the government system we do now. Although many people in the 1790’s believed that the constitution had fatal flaws, I disagree. It was fundamentally sound in providing basic rights for all people, but just needed some minor adjustments to ensure all people of the United States have equal rights.
Courtney from Study Moose
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