2-16-04 Mid-term ExamWhat makes a perfect union? Is it every person having an equal voice?What constitutes a free society? Is it just our basic civil rights? Inthis essay I will discuss politics in general, the Articles ofConfederation, Shay’s Rebellion, the Constitutional Convention and theGreat Compromise, amending the Constitution and the amendments, severalimportant supreme court rulings, and the influence of polling.
Yourdictionary.com describes politics as “The art or science ofgovernment or governing, especially the governing of a political entity,such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal andexternal affairs.” I think most people would be surprised to hear politicsdescribed as an art or a science. I believe it to be much more a sciencethan an art. Well educated and highly opinionated men test ideas in theircourthouses and laboratories. Sometimes an important challenge arises andmany experts scramble for a solution.
The articles of confederation were basically an early constitution,laying down the most important ideas but lacking in important detail. Oneimportant lacking detail being that the articles, while helping to ensurethe states stayed together, didn’t unify the states economically. Anotherimportant lacking detail was that it didn’t require the individual statesto pay the necessary revenue to defend the state against the Spanish andBritish, nor to defend itself from armed rebels.
In 1774 our country faced a serious depression because weakness ofthe Articles of Confederation. The states fought each other by taxing eachothers goods and sometimes stopping trade altogether. This depression gotso bad the banks had to stop giving loans and start calling on citizens topay their debt. Anyone who couldn’t pay was charged and imprisoned. Inaugust 1786, led by a former revolutionary captain Daniel Shays a band ofmusket wielding farmers stormed the courthouses and interrupted trials ofindividuals being prosecuted for not paying debts. This event proved formost that the articles did not adequately provide for the military andpolice to enforce our ideals.
The Virginia legislature called for a meeting of all the states inMaryland, on Sept. 11, 1786 to discuss commercial problems caused by theArticles. At this meeting a call was issued for a general convention inPhiladelphia “to discuss the exigencies of the union” in may, 1787. Thiswould later be known as the Constitutional convention. The Virginiadelegates had arrived early and already had the Virginia plan completedwhen George Washington opened the convention. It called for creation of anunspecified national executive elected by the legislature and nationaljudiciary appointed by the legislature. It also called for a bicamerallegislature, a lower house being chosen by the people, and a smaller upperhouse consisting of representatives from each state. Each state would senda number of representatives proportional to the states population, givingfavor to the larger states.
On June 15th 1787 William Paterson of New Jersey offered the NewJersey plan, a not so drastic change basically enforcing the articles mainprincipal of one state, one vote, and amending it to give congress morepower. With tension between the small states and the large states building,Roger Sherman of Connecticut offers a compromise.
He put forth the idea of a bicameral legislature in which the house ofrepresentatives consists of a number of representatives proportional to thenumber of free inhabitants in each state. Furthermore the compromise wouldcall for an upper house, or the senate, which would have tworepresentatives from each state elected by the legislature. The small andlarge states had come to a mutually beneficial agreement.
The Constitution is a very flexible document depending on what partof it you are trying to bend. Furthermore some officials can do morebending than others. For example the president is given no authority by theconstitution to propose bills, but presidents have proposed hundreds ofbills each year since 1913. The constitution also gives the president noauthority to make war without the consent of congress, but he does and isnot the first president to try. Judges can bend the constitution. Althoughit is not specifically granted by the Constitution, Judicial Review can beused as a tool to change the constitution. Judicial Review is the power ofthe courts to invalidate actions taken by the executive branch or congress.
Also the Constitution in constantly changed by both congress and thepresident though constant reinterpretation over the years.
The supreme court ruled in 1896 using judicial review that black citizensbeing given “separate but equal” public facilities was in factconstitutional. In 1954 it came to light that “separate but equal” was aform of discrimination, and the courts overturned this ruling.
Baltimore Maryland, 1819 a cashier at the second national bank JamesWilliam McCulloch loses his case in state court for refusing to pay theunfair tax imposed by the state of Maryland on the bank. The nationalgovernment appeals his case to the Supreme Court. Did the nationalgovernment have the “implied power” granted by the constitutions necessaryand proper clause to charter the first and second national bank using taxpayers money for capital? Also if the banks were constitutional, could thestate of Maryland tax them? Who should win when the state and nationalgovernment conflict? The judge decreed that if creating a bank helps thenational government exercise its designated powers, than the authority tocreate such a bank was implied.
The constitution so-called commerce clause provides that congress isgiven the right to “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among theseveral states, and with the Indian Tribes.” What was meant exactly bycommerce? Does commerce include the shipment of people? Does congress havethe right to interfere with commerce inside state lines? These were allquestions to be answered by Chief Justice John Marshall, the very samejudge from McCulloch v. Maryland discussed in the previous paragraph. Inthe case of Gibbons v. Ogden in 1824, Marshall answered all these questionsby stating that commerce referred to all commercial intercourse, includingthe navigation and transport of people.
The I amendment grants us the right to freedom of speech, press,assembly, and to petition the government for redress of grievances. Itfurthermore forbids congress from establishing an official church. The Iamendment is the most important amendment because it establishes ourindividual innate rights that can not be infringed upon. This amendmentshould be unrestrained and protected at all costs.
The XIV amendment was one of the more important amendments because isdidn’t pertain to the national government but to the state government andits treatment of citizens. It ensured that citizen not be striped of rightsgiven by the national government and to be free from state discrimination.
It held that our individual rights given to us at birth can not beinfringed upon by the state we live in.
A poll is but a snapshot of public opinion at the time the poll isgiven. Since public opinion is bases on gossip and media, public opinion iswhatever was on TV this morning or whatever verbal slip up someoneimportant might have made. The public lacks the ability as a whole to lookat the whole picture, and to distinguish fact from opinion. Therefore apublic poll should never be relied upon to sway the scales of any politicalleader.
The constitution we have formed over two hundred years is clearly themost perfect document ever created. It has come along way since itsbeginnings at the constitutional convention of 1787. It was designed tomake the journey. Designed to serve the same propose though very differenttimes. It has been and may always be our guiding light as a nation, and weshould do all we can to preserve it.