HGov Chapter 2 Summary: Constitutional Democracy


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The Constitution of the United States is a reflection of the colonial and revolutionary experiences of the early American. Freedom from abusive government was a reason for the colonies’ 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 in part to provide for limited government in which political power would be confined to 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 in the Bill of Rights. The most significant constitutional provision for limited government, however, was a 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 other two \, an arrangement that during the nation’s history has in fact served as a barrier to abuses of power.

The Constitution, however, made no mention of how the powers and limits of government were to be judged in practice. In its historic ruling in Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court assumed the authority to review the constitutionality of legislative and executive actions and to declare them unconstitutional and thus invalid.


Summer Assignment
Read and take Cornell notes:
2.1 Before the Constitution: The Colonial and Revolutionary Experiences (read pp.37-45)
2.2 Negotiating Toward a Constitution (read pp.45-50)
2.3 Protecting Liberty: Limited Government (read pp.50-58)
2.4 Providing for Self-Government (read pp.58-66)

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