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The current U.S constitution under which the American government, fundamental laws as well as the bill of human rights was signed in Sept 17, 1787 following a resolution by the delegates who participated in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The convention was particularly organized after five states requested for a Constitutional Convention for a discussion of the potential improvements to the confederation articles (Berkin, 2003; Mason and Stephenson, 2015).
According to (Berkin, 2003), the Constitutional Convention of between May and September of 1787 was particularly undertaken to address the problems that existed under the article of confederation on the weak central government some of which included lack of a strong central government, weak military, economic crisis as well as interstate conflicts. This paper critically reviews the Constitutional Convention and ratification of the Constitution by Berkin (2003), how its description differs with that in “The Glorious Cause” as well as the contemporary uniqueness of the American political system.
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How the author describe the Constitutional Convention and ratification of the Constitution
The book describe the constitutional convention and ratification of the constitution as a process which not only appeared disordered but was also accompanied by too many problems, proposed solutions a lot of issues together with too many arguments. Following the beginning of the assembling of the delegates of the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1789 May, the delegates immediately made a move to substitute the article of confederation with the support from George Washington (Berkin, 2003). There was, however, a partition of power between the government’s branches as well as between the federal and the state governments, trade, foreign concerns, slavery, representations, taxes, together with issues on the processes to elect the president. Other challenges included strong self-images, diverging plans, state rights, and regional demands which made solutions hard. Following the five months of debate, innovative strategies and concession a new constitution was established building a federal republic with a stable central government thus increasing the power of the State government (Mason, & Stephenson, 2015). However, ten months of private and public debates were necessary to safeguard the ratification by the least possible nine States.
Upon the leadership of George Washington and James Madison, the Virginia delegates to the constitution convection prepared a government strategy which allowed for proportionate representation in a two-house legislature together with a resilient national government with more authority over the State laws (Berkin, 2003). On May 29, 1787, he presented a convection plan designed to protect the interest of the large state, in a strong national republic after his refusal to sign the conventional constitution which became the origin of debate. William Paterson presented the New Jersey Plan on June 16, 1787, where he demanded to retain unicameral legislature with equivalent votes of States and also have the executives elected by the national legislature. The plan added power to control commerce and foreign affairs and to raise the revenue while it still maintained the system of government under the article confederation. William Peterson plan was also designed to protect the power and the security of minor states where each state was limited to one vote in Congress. James Madison, however, responded to William Peterson suggested New Jersey plan through his journal which he preserved during the minutes (Berkin, 2003).
On June 28, 1787, the convention delegates rejected Benjamin Franklin’s proposal that the clergyman leads a daily prayer to provide divine guidance while resolving the differences to respond to the tension among the delegates which threatened to risk the purpose of the constitutional convention. However, Franklin always harmonized the delegates upon frustrations on several contentious issues. In the mid-July, the delegates finally made a great agreement on creating a bicameral legislature with the state devising equal representatives in the Senate while in the lower house people having proportional representatives where all money bills were to be generated. The report on the committee of style under William Samuel as the chair with the help of Madison and Alexander Hamilton seemed to stabilize the constitution (Berkin, 2003).
According to the authors, some conflicts emerged in the ratification of the constitution following disagreements on the process of State ratification in the United States. There was rivalry between the antifederal supporters who were committed to agrarian interests and were more receptive to paper money who differed from the federal supporters of the constitution who were on tariff imports. On November 22, 1787, Madison backed by John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton defended the constitution in efforts to having it adopted, and they presented their opinions in the Federalist papers. The newly proposed constitution was ratified by the nine states before it was made the supreme law of the United States where Hampshire and Virginia emerged as the ninth and the tenth state to approve it. The state ratification was then used by the constitution supporters to manipulate the remaining states to join and approve the development of new federal republic. Later New York paraded in support of the New Federal constitution in July 1788 while the North Carolina and Rhode Island delayed their ratification until the new government formation in1789 emerging as the eleventh state of ratification.
After the eleven state ratification, the elected officers in the government of the United States gathered New York City in 1789, replacing the Articles of Confederation government. The federalists publicized their urge to perform a series of amendments to be referred as the bill of rights shortly after ratification and first congress came into session. Later Thomas Jefferson called for the exclusion of the bill of rights which was a huge fault as it was the only right citizens can be entitled to against any form of government. As a result, James Madison skeptical on safeguarding the liberty failed in 1788 though he continues pressurizing on the declaration of the rights arguing that it would assist in fixing the judiciary as the protector of individual rights against other divisions.
Upon the meeting of the first congress, James Madison took the responsibility of drafting the proposed bill of rights in 1789. In his amendments, he included those which were rejected and revised by the Congress and those not ratified by the demanded three-fourth of the State legislature. Some of the rejection on the adoption of the Madison proposal followed on the argument of the need to extend the free speech protection to the State (Mason et al., 2015). A portion of the members of the Congress argued that the congress did not have the power to take the rights away as they belonged to the citizen and the constitution hindered them to.
The bill of rights was also linked to possibly results in a reduction of liberty. Upon the certification of the confederation congress that the eleven states had ratified the constitution election followed On February 4, 1789, voting members in eleven states had met to cast their votes for the first president of the US. Later the votes were tabularized, and, as the Constitution instructed, they were sent to Congress, where the results would be delivered and detailed in a special hearing of the House and Senate. The new government took control under the rule of his Excellency George Washington and later the article Congress dissolved itself. The first ten constitutional amendments of the state followed and were ratified by the state in “The Bill of rights.” The amendments mainly addressed the federal relationships, individuals’ freedom and liberty, terms of office, election procedures, expanding the electorate, congressional pay, consumption of alcohol as well as financing the government. The constitution criticism has however focused on the expansion of the democracy as well as the states’ rights (Berkin, 2003).
The ways the Book’s Description of the Process, Goals, and Results differs from what is described in The Glorious Cause
There are a number of ways through which the description of the process, goals and results in the book significantly differ from the description contained in the book “The Glorious Cause” by Middlekauff and Woodward (1982). For example, Berkin (2003) suggests that the American Constitutional Convention and ratification was begun as a response to the diverse challenges that the newly independent United States faced following the revolution. Some of the challenges which may have led to the American Constitutional Convention and ratification included lack of a strong central government, weak military, economic crisis as well as interstate conflicts. Berkin (2003) also suggest that the process of Constitutional Convention and ratification was characterized by conflicts, deep disagreements and compromises due to divergent opinions and beliefs of the drafters of the American constitution. It seems to contradict that the founding fathers would build a document firming up the central government and at the same time intended to limit the government. In her introduction of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, the historian Pauline Meier claims that the father of constitution James Madison seemed more concerned about the States wrongful actions rather than the confederation weaknesses. Meir criticizes the new laws passed by the triumphant state majorities as they violated the rights of the minorities making the state constitution inefficient in securing the citizens’ rights.
According to Berkin (2003), the goal of the constitution convection was to form a more perfect union, offer the general welfare, assure domestic tranquility, and establish justice as well as to secure the blessings of liberty to the American citizen and their future generations (Berkin, 2003). The constitution was then signed by the delegates who attended the constitutional conventional while presided by George Washington.
On the other hand, Middlekauff and Woodward (1982) also provide a vivid description of the making of the American constitution in Convention of 1787 of Philadelphia as well as the constant struggles during its ratification. According to the authors, the making and the ratification of the new constitution was a direct product of the American Revolution. Middlekauff and Woodward (1982) particularly describes the Americans who took up arms and fought for their nation during the revolution as heroes who fought for a “Glorious Couse.”
Consequently, according to the authors, the constitution was largely but a response to the move towards democracy following the revolution. For example, Upon the signing of the declaration of independence, the second Continental Congress wrote the first American Constitution, the article of confederation. Following some failed attempts on establishing government convection was called to draft a new legal system in the United States which would protect the rights of the American citizens and which would provide for increased federal authority. The constitution was written in 1787 after the congress gathered delegates in Philadelphia to change the existing government charter, the article of confederation which was believed to have created unproductive, weak central government.
One remarkable similarity between the two books is that they both acknowledge the fact that the Constitutional Convention and ratification was characterized by struggles, disagreements and conflicts.
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The Uniqueness of the American Political System
The American system of the government significantly contributes to its greatness. The founding fathers of America decision on the limitation of the American government authority over the people make its democracy unique. In the constitution, some specific responsibilities are ordained to the government where all are subject to the unchallengeable individual rights as well as God-given. In American political system, the people confer power to the government which they are also permitted to revoke at any time which is not the case in other countries. The government, therefore, does not confer rights upon the people. The minorities had no rights questioning those in authority as kingship was considered as a divine, inherited right. A system of a divided limited government was put in place following the set changes. There was co-equal power in the three branches which allowed them to check excesses in each other. The United States also has a distinctive mission in transforming the world by ensuring democracy is practiced. The United States history and its emergence as a superpower make it stand out among other nations (Seidelman, 2015).
In conclusion, The United States Constitution of 1789, in general, played a significant role in in the establishment of the Americans National government together with the fundamental roles as well as guaranteeing citizens on certain basic rights to protect them from the hands of the authority. The constitution has also added some value and uniqueness to the American political system making it stand out among other nations.
- Berkin, C. (2003). A brilliant solution: Inventing the American Constitution. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
- Mason, A. T., & Stephenson, G. (2015). American constitutional law: introductory essays and selected cases. Routledge.
- Middlekauff, R., & Woodward, C. V. (1982). The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (p. 410). New York: Oxford University Press.
- Seidelman, R. (2015). Disenchanted realists: Political science and the American crisis. Suny Press.