According to legend, Benjamin Franklin was stopped by a women after the Constitutional Convention ended. The woman asked Mr. Franklin, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy.” He responded, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Shortly before the election on November 8th, I decided to start a blog about politics and law. What I saw throughout the election season greatly concerned me. Though some people showed a sufficient understanding of political and legal structures and their processes, many demonstrated that they either were unaware or willfully ignorant of important political and legal issues.
My hope is that this blog will help to enlighten all of us, so long as we are willing to think long and hard about the political and legal issues in our world, particularly in the United States (though international issues are by no means off-limits). To that end, I invite you to do two things: 1) Comment on, reply to, and share my blog posts to help spread these discussions and; 2) Send me ideas/topics you have for future blog posts.
Your participation in this endeavor is conditioned on civility and respect. I firmly believe that a variety of viewpoints is the best means to determine the most reasonable answer, although I acknowledge that there are instances where that may not be possible. To that end, I invite everyone to offer their thoughts and supporting evidence in responding to my blog posts. What I will not permit are comments whose sole purpose or design is to agitate or provoke strong emotional reactions in others, nor will I tolerate views which advocate in favor of hate or prejudice.
Let’s start off with a little background as to how we got to where we are today. In 1787, delegates from twelve of the thirteen states (Rhode Island refused to send delegates) met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the Constitutional Convention. Their instructions were to develop and propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation, the charter under which the United States operated following independence from Great Britain. It had become clear to many, particularly the political elite, that the Articles of Confederation was not workable so long as its purpose was to keep the states united. The Constitutional Convention was supposed to fix some of the most critical flaws in the Articles. The most notable issue was that the Articles required an unanimity of the states to pass anything of real import, a feat that was nearly impossible to accomplish.
The delegates quickly realized that their assigned task was a paradox. Without input from Rhode Island’s delegates about possible amendments to the Articles, none were likely to be approved and implemented. Instead, the delegates decided to propose an entirely new charter for the national government. Drawing on their experiences with the Articles of Confederation and state constitutions, as well as their knowledge of political theories from the likes of Locke and Montesquieu, the delegates sought to craft a document which would provide for a national government strong enough to hold together states with vastly different interests yet not so strong as to permit tyranny by a slim majority.
The Constitution is divided into nine sections, which include the Preamble, Articles I through VII, and a Signators section. Additionally, twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution have been ratified during the past two and a half centuries. What follows is a brief summary of each Article.
The Preamble explains the general purpose of the Constitution, emphasizing its creation by the people.
ARTICLE I- The Legislature
Article I grants Congress the legislative authority of the federal government and outlines the specific powers Congress is allowed to exercise, as well as a few powers expressly withheld.
ARTICLE II- The Executive
Article II vests the executive powers of the federal government to the President, who is assisted by Secretaries and Undersecretaries in wielding this power.
ARTICLE III- The Judiciary
Article III creates a Supreme Court and permits Congress to create other inferior courts to enforce federal judicial power.
ARTICLE IV- The States
Article IV ensures that states treat citizens, public acts, and judicial proceedings of their sister states fairly and guarantees that all states have a republican form of government. Additionally, Article IV provides that Congress may admit new states to the Union.
ARTICLE V- Amendments
Article V lays out the process for proposing and ratifying amendments to the Constitution.
ARTICLE VI- Legal Status of the Constitution
Article VI provides for the carryover of debts against the United States under the Constitution as they existed under the Confederation. Most importantly, Article VI made the Constitution and all federal laws and treaties made in pursuance to it the supreme law of the land.
ARTICLE VII- Ratification
And finally, Article VII provided that the Constitution would be established following its ratification by nine states.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” The Preamble.
As the ultimate sovereign, the people ratified the Constitution and formed the United States. The people, by way of their votes and political movements, have ensured its continuation. Now it’s time to do our part. If the United States will continue to be one of the world’s leaders in democracy, freedom and justice, we need to understand what exactly we are defending and protecting. That’s what I hope to accomplish with this blog for myself and those around me. It is our job to fight for the Republic, for democracy. But most importantly, for one another.