What do you think tyranny means? When we think of tyranny, we consider its harsh absolute power in the hands of one individual, like King George III. In James Madison’s argument for his support of the Constitution he wrote that “The accumulation of all power… in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many is the very definition of tyranny.” In 1787, the framers came together in Philadelphia to write the Constitution to help guard against tyranny. The Constitution guarded against tyranny in several ways which were federalism, separation of power, checks and balances, and big states versus small states.
The first guard against tyranny was federalism which means the federal principle of government. In the Federalist Paper #51 James Madison wrote that “In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments.” (Doc. A). Madison’s idea was known as Federalism, the division of power between central and state governments.
Federalism provides a double security to the people by the arise of the people’s rights. Central and state governments have shared and separate powers.
For instant, both governments set up courts and pass laws. Powers given to the Central Government were regulate trade, declaring war, setting up post offices, and making immigration laws. Powers given to the states were holding elections, setting up local governments, passing marriages and divorce laws, and establishing schools. Federalism protects against tyranny because both governments were equal and gave people a say in the government. A second guard against tyranny was separation of power which means the government divided into three branches. They separated the government into the executive branch, legislative branch, and judicial branch. In the Federalist Paper #47 James Madison said “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may be just pronounced the very definition of tyranny…” (Doc B). The idea Madison advocated with this quote was that through the separation of powers there tyranny shouldn’t form. The job of each branch is to protect the rights of the people. The separation of powers protects against tyranny because one branch cannot do something without the consultancy of another branch. This provided equal powers between the three branches.
The third guard against tyranny was checks and balances which means a balance in power. As indicated in the chart, document C, the legislative branch or congress has check over the executive and judicial branch it can override the vote of the executive branch and approve of presidential nominations. With the judicial branch it could impeach judges and remove them from office. They could also do the same with the President and remove him or her from office. The executive branch could appoint judges to the Supreme Court and can veto Congressional legislation. The judicial branch can declare laws unconstitutional and declare presidential acts as unconstitutional. James Madison said that “… (The three branches) should not be so far separated as to have no constitutional control over each other,” meaning that without check and balances it would be one step closer to a tyranny, because one of the branches could gain all the control of the power (Doc C). In that the fight over how the states should be represented in congress began. The fourth and final step the delegates implied was the arguments between the small and big states and how they should be represented in congress. In the Constitutional Convention there was a big fuss over how the states should be represented, so that the big states votes or suggestions wouldn’t override the votes or suggestions of the smaller states.
They came to the agreement known as the Great Compromise. In the compromise the agreed that under the House of Representatives the states would be represented by population (Doc. D). This made the larger states happier because they would have more representation over the smaller states. They also agreed to that the Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators per state, making the smaller states happier because of the equal representation. With the compromise the states would become united and this would help guard against tyranny. In the Constitutional Convention the delegates and Madison used arguments of federalism through the division of powers, checks and balances and the arguments between the larger and smaller states to guard against tyranny. Although checks and balances and the arguments between are important reason to prevent tyranny, the most important reason for the prevent of tyranny is the separation of powers, through the separation of powers the delegates insecurity of our rights. Therefore preventing one
group gaining control of all powers.
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