The Founding Fathers Essay Online For Free

August 7, 2020 by Essay Writer

What were the founding fathers’ main motivations when designing the US Constitution more than two centuries ago? What aspects of their design most and least impress you, and why? The United States Constitution is a 7,000 word document which established a national government and created three branches of that government. The three branches established were the legislative branch being Congress, an executive branch being the President and finally a judicial branch which was the Supreme Court. The Constitution was created by the Founding Fathers of the United States who saw the previous system of government, the Articles of Confederation, as weak and leaderless. I will discuss what I consider the main motivations of the Founding Fathers in creating the Constitution and why they created certain branches of government as they did, as well as the reasons why they created the Constitution in this way. I will then proceed to write about what aspects of the Constitution are good for the Government and the people of the United States and what aspects of the constitution could be improved upon. Alexander Hamilton drafted a report which was supported by James Madison that proposed that the thirteen states send delegates to a convention “to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the federal government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.” Congress invited the states to send delegates to a convention in Philadelphia “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation” and to “render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the Union.” Here were the beginnings of the Constitution, as the delegates quickly noticed problems with the original Articles of Confederation. The delegates were unhappy that there were laws which inflated the state’s currency and abolished debts. The absolution of these debts made the debtors influence state governments and push their minority interests onto the majority. The main problem with the Articles of Confederation, however, was that there was no executive or judiciary; therefore the states had no single person to look to in time of crisis or that rash decisions could be made, without the protection of rights. An example of this being in Pennsylvania where the Quakers lost the right to vote in elections due to a decision of the Pennsylvania legislature. The states were also seen as weak if they did not form a federal unity. This was described in the Federalist Papers, written by “Publius” which was actually a combination of works of Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, published in New York to make the case for the ratification of the new Constitution by the state conventions. In the papers they explain that if the states were acting separately they then could easily be picked on and taken over by European powers. Publius further maintains that if the states were fighting amongst themselves, liberties would be at risk and they would be economically worse off. The states could also not protect themselves from internal revolutions without a national government to intervene, such as in the case of Shay’s rebellion in Massachusetts in 1786. A system of powerful government was consequently needed to put these issues to rest. As we have seen the Founding Fathers saw that the Articles of Confederation were not working and therefore needed a new form of government to take control. The Philadelphia convention was set up to deal with these issues. Various proposals were put forward including the Virginia plan which wanted a strong national government and the New Jersey Plan which wanted a weak national government, until they reached an agreement formally known as the Connecticut compromise. The First Article of the Constitution talks about the legislature. The larger states wanted representation based on population; the small states feared this would not give them a large enough voice within Congress to air their grievances. A compromise was reached that there would be two houses. These would be the House of Representatives which was based on population and the Senate which would have two representatives from each state no matter what the population of the state was. The small states were scared that the larger states would override them on decisions and therefore were worried that they would be in an insignificant position within the new form of government, so in demanding the Senate, they now saw they had an equal voice on legislation that they saw as unfair or did not like. The Founding Fathers saw that the legislature needed to be based on the representation of the people, as they saw that if the ruler’s right to rule depended on the approval of the people to be governed. The Founding Fathers also wanted the legislature to be responsive to the electorate. A direct election to the House of Representatives was seen as a good way for the people to have a voice. The fathers decided to have a representative on two year terms for every 40,000 people in the House of Representatives. They did not make the population smaller as it would become too divisive within the House and if the population was larger then it was assumed that the representative would lose his connection with the people he was meant to represent. The other part of Congress, the Senate, was split so that it would weaken the power of the legislature; the Senate was elected on a 6 year term and not elected directly but by the legislature of that state. This was so that quick reforms were not passed in the fever of the moment. As Publius asserts in the Federalist it did not want to give “unreasonable advantage…to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few, over the industrious and uninformed mass of people”. As we have seen the Articles of Confederation were said to lack an executive to take decisive measures for the states as a whole. Article 2 sets out to address this problem. The executive was seen as a popularly elected monarch, however, one that could be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanours”. This was enacted so that no one should be above justice. The Founding Fathers saw that the states needed someone to represent them abroad, so the President was given the power to make treaties, and oversee foreign relations. These were decisions which the Founding Fathers knew needed to be handled in a quick manner so they were handed to the President, as he was a single representative and could treat these matters with priority with little interference from other branches of government. The President had very little to do domestically, as it was decided that the legislature should handle these issues. He could veto legislation, and propose it, but domestically this was about as much as he could do. The Founding Fathers gave the President very little domestically as they were concerned that he would destroy personal liberties as they perceived the monarch of Britain had done to the colonists. They also did not want him to be elected by rash decision making, so therefore the Founding Fathers decided on election by an electoral college. This was also to stop corruption within the system, as it was elected separately from the federal and state governments; it was subject to no influence from these institutions, thereby being completely independent. The Founding Fathers did this as they saw how easily influenced the executive could be by other parts of the government, as they believed in the British system. In the same manner the Founding Fathers also decided not to have members of Congress in executive positions, such as cabinet members. The Federalist states that this was to stop ‘the executive undermining the legislature by lucrative appointments.’ They were motivated to keep the executive under control as they had seen how influential the monarch of Britain had been, and how his rash decisions immediately affected the colonist’s lives. By making the executive as weak as they had done, they hoped to undermine his power. Article 3 expresses the role of the Judiciary within the frame of the Constitution. The Supreme Court was said to interpret and defend the supreme law of the land which was the Constitution. Article 3 states that the “Judicial power shall extend to all cases…arising under this Constitution”. The Supreme Court case of Marbury vs. Madison clarified the powers of the Court. It was held that Article 3 of the Constitution implies that the Supreme Court has the power of judicial review. It has been argued that this was intended by the Virginia Plan. The Founding Fathers also decided to elect the justices for life, although this caused concern for some but they were reassured by Madison who stated that “they will have lack of access to either the sword or the purse” He also claimed it would be the “least dangerous branch” since it could only interpret the Constitution and the people, if they felt strongly about the issue and could amend it as they saw fit. The Founding Fathers saw the Supreme Court as the ultimate protector of the Constitution and therefore saw it was needed not only to strike down legislation that conflicted with the Constitution but to protect the liberties of the people it was meant to protect. Another main motivation of the Founding Fathers was the separation of powers and to constitute checks and balances between the branches of government. The separation of powers dispersed powers of the government into different areas making it difficult for one to control the other. This was provided for by the Founding Fathers so as to stop one system of government becoming tyrannical and effectively taking over the government. It forced Congress and the President to agree on policies, therefore stopping one or the other from becoming too powerful. The checks and balances were said to make ‘every branch superior and inferior to one another’. The separation of powers and checks and balances are one of the aspects which least impress me about the Constitution, although it has served well in some aspects which will be explained later. The reason is the checks and balances system can lead to gridlock if there is not agreement between the institutions of government. A good example of this was when President George W Bush wanted to expand the social security programme; he could not pass the legislation as Republicans were scared of losing their seats if they voted for it. The weakening of political party ties in government has made the gaining of support for the Presidential proposals hard. This means it can take years for reforms to be passed such as the case with healthcare, although some reforms were eventually passed recently. It faced much opposition from a well placed minority within the branches of government as seen when Bill Clinton was President. When Congress and the President are members of different parties, the President can become a lame duck President and as government becomes a stalemate, the country has almost no legislation passed apart from on rare occasions when Congress and the President compromise. The separation of powers was best summed up by the Committee on the Constitutional System and Body of Political Reforms: “Separation of powers, as a principle of constitutional structure, has served us well in preventing tyranny and the abuse of high office, but it has done so by encouraging confrontation, indecision and deadlock, and by diffusing accountability for the results. Because the separation of powers encourages conflict between the branches and because the parties are weak, the capacity of the federal government to fashion, enact and administer coherent public policy has diminished and the ability of elected officials to avoid accountability for governmental failures has grown” The separation of powers and checks and balances has been extremely effective at stopping tyranny, almost too effective as it has been a massive nuisance to government in passing legislation and getting reforms passed if the different branches of government do not agree on certain issues. Another aspect which least impresses me about the Constitution is the position of the Supreme Court which is due to the power of the President to make judicial appointments. This means that the Supreme Court can have a long lasting bias as where a conservative President appoints conservative Supreme Court justices who are likely to follow their conservative bias in reaching decisions. Since the justices are life serving they can hamper decisions made by Congress or the states. This can be seen in such divisive issues such as slavery, abortion, gun control and even the election of the President in 2000. They can deem certain legislation “unconstitutional” which blocks progress within the United States even if the majority of citizens want it. Another issue that least impresses me about the Constitution is the Electoral College. The Electoral College hampers the concept of one person one vote, as the form of the Electoral College cancels out all the other votes if the state is won by another party. It also creates problems in elections as candidates have to campaign to not obtain the most votes, but to capture the most states. For instance Al Gore did not want to alienate the states of Pennsylvania and Michigan so decided not to air his views on strong gun control. Another weakness is the power of amendment in the Constitution. This is the very opposite of democracy in my view as thirteen states that represent less than 5% of the population can block constitutional amendments. This is due to Article 5 of the Constitution which provides that amendments must be “ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof”. The aspect of the Constitution which most impresses me is the fact that it is the world’s oldest surviving constitution and that it still provides a workable constitution in the context of the modern United States. Hugh Brogan says that this may be because if the majority do truly want change within the system they can bring it about through amendments. What also impresses me is that it has a Bill of Rights which enshrines people’s rights and expresses that certain human rights are inalienable rights which cannot be taken away from them. It was one of the first constitutions to give recognition to the natural rights of its citizens. It took the British government until the election of Labour in 1997 to see these rights needed to be put into law in the shape of the Human Rights Act 1998. The fact that the Founding Fathers saw human rights as an issue almost 200 years ago made immigrants flock to the country and let their religions thrive as they were being persecuted in their homelands. The Constitution also impresses me by the fact that it looked after the minority rights of its citizens and through the separation of powers and checks and balances, made sure that minorities in the country were not being oppressed and could air their grievances in a number of departments and not just one. Therefore the Constitution prevents tyranny within the system by creating a strong national government which could overrule state governments which fell under single interests, such as the case of Brown v. Board of Education where the Supreme Court declared segregation illegal in public schools. The United States Constitution is the longest surviving constitution in the world, it has stood the test of time and has adapted to changes around it, as long as the majority see it as necessary to change it. It has been seen as a fair constitution which does not single out one group of people, but accepts them all and gives people certain inalienable rights. The Constitution could be seen as a good precedent for other countries to follow but, however, this not seems to be the case. As Paul Johnson states certain countries seem to have completely ignored the American example with disastrous consequences, such as in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and the Central African Federation. Maybe if they had followed US constitutional ideals, which although not perfect, they would have been more successful as societies.

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