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U.S. Government
Constitution Notes
U.S. Government Course Overview
Unit 1
Unit 2
Unit 3
Unit 4
Unit 5
Local Government Participation Project
Final Exam Review

U.S. Constitution


Constitution Notes


in 1786, leading statesmen called for a special convention to revise the Articles -- the Constitutional Convention. 


Framers:            All but Rhode Island met in Philadelphia.  Rhode Island was controlled by small farmers and debtors who wanted a weak central government.  Inflation was good for them. 55 delegates met.  Madison 36, Hamilton is 32 Washington is 55.


Virginia Plan:

q       Madison and Edmund Randolph called for a new government with 3 branches

q       Legislature: bicameral, based on $ and support given to the government the second based on population.  The lower house would then elect the upper house

q       They had power over state laws and states had to obey national laws

q       Executive and judicial chosen by congress

q       National government that could enforce own laws


New Jersey Plan: Countered the VA. Plan

q       Legislative: unicameral, equal representation per state.

q       Congress has power to tax and regulate interstate trade

q       Plural executive  chosen by congress and could be replaced by a majority of governors.

q       Courts appointed by the executive branch with only 1 supreme court


Great Compromise: Combined the two

q       Legislative: bicameral one by population the other of equal votes.

q       Today over half of the world is bicameral yet only a few split the representation.


3/5 compromise:

q       Agree that 3/5 of slaves count in the population as far as representation goes.

q       They are referred to as “ other people” in the constitution Article 1 Section 2 Clause 3


Commerce and Slave Trade Compromise:

q       Southern states feared congress would act against them in taxing exports of tobacco and cotton.

q       Before agreeing to commerce powers of congress they wanted certain protections

q       Congress was then forbidden from taxing exports from any state.

q       Can’t act on slave trade for 20 years.





After five weeks of debate over the committee of detail's draft Constitution, the Constitutional Convention appointed a committee of style to prepare a final version; Gouverneur Morris, later known as the "penman of the Constitution," did most of the work. On September 17, 1787, after several days of further revision, the Constitutional Convention voted in favor of the Constitution. The states were left to accept or reject this new plan of government.



The capital would be the most important city in the new nation; the new government would bring with it employment, trade, and an active social circuit. Several cities vied to be the new capital. After much debate, New York City was chosen as a temporary capital, until a final decision could be made.


Antifederalists opposed the Constitution for a variety of reasons. Some continued to argue that the delegates in Philadelphia had exceeded their congressional authority by replacing the Articles of Confederation with an illegal new document. Others complained that the delegates in Philadelphia represented only the well-born few and consequently had crafted a document that served their special interests and reserved the franchise for the propertied classes. Another frequent objection was that the Constitution gave too much power to the central government at the expense of the states and that a representative government could not manage a republic this large. The most serious criticism was that the Constitutional Convention had failed to adopt a bill of rights proposed by George Mason. In New York, Governor George Clinton expressed these Antifederalist concerns in several published newspaper essays under the pen name Cato, while Patrick Henry and James Monroe led the opposition in Virginia. They Objected to the lack of mention of God, ratification process, denial of States to print money, Increased power of the central government and a lack of a bill of rights.



the Federalists, fought back, convinced that rejection of the Constitution would result in anarchy and civil strife. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay responded to Clinton under the pen name Publius. Beginning in October 1787, these three penned 85 essays for New York newspapers and later collected them into 2 volumes entitled The Federalist, which analyzed the Constitution, detailed the thinking of the framers, and responded to the Antifederalist critics.


As for the lack of a bill of rights, Federalists argued that a catalogued list might be incomplete and that the national government was so constrained by the Constitution that it posed no threat to the rights of citizens. Ultimately, during the ratification debate in Virginia, Madison conceded that a bill of rights was needed, and the Federalists assured the public that the first step of the new government would be to adopt a bill of rights.








I.                   A.S.C. Article, Section, Clause


II.                Legislative:     (Congress) Make the laws                   

a.     Power of Legislative Branch

                                                             i.      Creates lower courts                                                 

                                                          ii.      Remove judges                                       

                                                       iii.      Approve or reject appointments                             

                                                        iv.      Makes laws                                       

                                                           v.      Appropriates funds to carry out laws                   

                                                        vi.      Override a veto                                          

                                                     vii.      Remove a President                                                 

                                                  viii.      Approves treaties

b.    Necessary and Proper Clause

c. Ex post facto

III.             Executive: (President and Cabinet)     Enforces the laws

a.     Powers of the Executive Branch

                                                             i.      Veto legislation

                                                          ii.      Recommend legislation

                                                       iii.      Enforces laws

                                                        iv.      Carries out laws

                                                           v.      Appoints supreme court

                                                        vi.      Appoints federal judges

b.    Necessary and Expedient Clause


IV.           Judicial Branch: (Supreme Court)    Judges constitutionality of laws

a.     Powers of the judicial Branch

                                                             i.      Declares acts of Congress unconstitutional

                                                          ii.      Appointed for life