HGov: Constitution Review


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The Constitution is a reflection of the colonial and revolutionary experiences of the early Americans. Freedom from abusive government was a reason for the colonists’ revolt against British rule, but the English tradition also provided ideas about government, power, and freedom that were expressed in the Constitution and earlier in the Declaration of Independence.

The Constitution was designed to provide for a limited government in which political power would be confined to its proper uses. The framers wanted to ensure that the government they were creating would not itself be a threat to freedom. To this end, they confined the national government to expressly granted powers and also denied it specific powers. Other prohibitions on government were later added to the Constitution in the form of stated guarantees of individual liberties, the Bill of Rights. The most significant constitutional provision for limited government, however, was separation of powers among the three branches. The powers given to each branch enable it to act as a check on the exercise of power by the others, an arrangement which, during the nation’s history, has in fact served as a barrier to abuses of power.

The framers of the Constitution respected the idea of self-government but distrusted popular majorities. They designed a government that they felt would temper popular opinion and slow its momentum, so that the public’s true interest, which includes a regard for the rights and interests of the minority, would guide public policy. Different methods were established to select members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the president, and federal judges as a means of separating political power from momentary and unreflecting majorities.


Homework:
Chapters 4-5 Quiz

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