nt power in order to protect individual rightsHow is the Constitution designed to limit government power in order to protect individual rights?
In the 1780s, many people agreed that the Articles of Confederation were not a strong enough plan of government for a newly born nation. Even though The Articles of Confederation won the Revolutionary War, there were many problems with the plan of government. The Articles of Confederation was made to prevent a strong national government and it only gave each state one vote in the Confederation Congress. It could not raise money and it only had one branch, the Legislature. In 1786, delegates from each state went to Philadelphia to draft a new Constitution for the United States.
Fifty-five delegates came to Philadelphia convinced that the defects of the Articles of Confederation were so serious it would be better not to use them as a starting point. James Madison created a plan a government known as the Virginia plan. Under this plan, the national government would have the power to make and enforce its own laws, and to collect its own taxes. Two governments, the state and the national government would govern every citizen. The plan also included a Congress and three branches: the legislative, executive, and the judicial.
Even though the Virginia plan barely passed, there were many disagreements to building the new constitution. Some issues were about the Bill of Rights, representation, and the presidency. After arguing and debating about these issues for some quite time, it’s no surprise that the Constitution of 1789 is known as a “Bundle of Compromises.”
Article I of the Constitution deals with the legislative branch. The main debate in this area was about representation. The basis for the Virginia plan was proportional representation. The principle of proportional representation was based on the population on the state and was believed that larger states should have more representation because of the people’s voices. Smaller states wanted equal representation because they feared that larger states would run the national government. The voices in the smaller states would be left out and the Constitution would not preserve equality among the states.
A special committee was made to make a compromise between representation. The compromise was called the Connecticut Compromise or the Great Compromise. The deal was that the House of Representatives would be proportional and the Senate would be equal representation. The House of Representatives would develop all bills for taxing and government spending and the Senate was limited to accepting or rejecting those bills. The two houses would form the national Congress.
The legislative branch had enumerated powers. Section eight includes matters such powers as 1) to lay and collect taxes, 2) to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States, 3) to regulate commerce with foreign nations and states, 4) to declare war, 5) to raise an army and navy, and 6) to coin money. Other powers were clauses such as the necessary and proper clause and the supremacy clause. The necessary and proper clause was a law given to Congress to make any laws deemed “necessary and proper” for running the nation. The supremacy clause stated that the Constitution and all laws and treaties approved by Congress in exercising its enumerated powers are the supreme law of the land.
The limits on Congress included 1) banning the slave trade before 1808,2) suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus – the right to hear what you are being charged for, 3) passing any ex post facto laws – laws that make an act a crime even though it was legal at the time it was committed, 4) passing any bills of attainder – laws that declare a person guilty of a crim and decrees a punishment without a judicial trial,5) taxing anything exported from a state, 6) taking money from the treasury without an appropriation law, and 7) granting titles of nobility.
Article II discusses the executive branch. The executive branch, which deals with negotiating treaties, conducting wars, nominating people for federal offices, and enforcing laws made by Congress, shares a lot of powers with the legislative