Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blog 5, Constitutional Questions

The founding fathers had many questions to face in drafting the Constitution. One question they did not really need to answer was whether or not they needed government in some form. Essentially every major organizational unit in society has some form of government. Families, for instance, are organized according to a matriarchal or patriarchal order. Clans are run by tribes, and tribes by chiefs. The idea of government being necessary was to most people, to use the language of the Declaration of Independence, a self evident truth. However, the founding fathers had many other questions to face. They had to grapple between government, ideals like freedom and liberty, and human nature and reality and finding a balance between all of these things. The founding fathers wanted to create the best government possible to protect the rights of the people but maintain the fledgling nation. In order to do this, they had to overcome the human predicament, which has been seen in so many societies throughout history. It starts with tyranny, which leads to revolution, which leads to anarchy, which leads to competing groups, out of which rise specific groups which end up taking over and governing in a tyrannical fashion. The founding fathers had to decide between several different types of government, including autocracy, and classical republicanism. Autocracy means rule by one person. The US had had some problems with this system…these problems lead to revolution against Great Britain. Also, many of the founding fathers were wary of putting too much power in the hands of a single individual. Theocracy, or religiously oriented government, was also a problematic idea, as many of the inhabitants of the New World had emigrated there to escape the religious persecution they had previously faced in their native countries. Also, if one single religious group ruled the entire country, it would cause a lot of problems with the many other religious groups that existed in the young nation. The founding fathers had other issues to face as well. They had to decide on the political economy of the new government, namely the bounds set by laws, police and courts. They also needed to determine the structure of the government, or society…the laws, customs and traditions, moral sense and, perhaps most importantly for the framers of a government, leadership. Obviously, there were many questions to face, and a lot of pressure to face them correctly. For several years, the country had been operating under the Articles of Confederation. This document left most power in the hands of the states, and allowed the federal government basically no room to operate. Obviously, as far as the unity of the states went, this caused problems. States wanted their sovereignty, but this often meant that they ignored resolutions passed by the weak Congress of the day. There was no national currency, and differing trade amongst the states caused many problems. The new founding fathers had to figure out how to reconcile the idea of a more powerful federal government with states which had been governing themselves for scores of years. Another question the founding fathers had to face was that of slavery. In order to form a new government, they had to reconcile the states in the north, which were based on a mercantilist economy, with the southern states with their agricultural economy supported by the labor of hundreds of thousands, if not millions at some points in time, of slaves. In short, the founding fathers had many issues on their plates when they came together to amend the Articles of Confederation. They eventually ended up abolishing them altogether and forming the Constitution of the United States of America, which still stands today as a hallmark of free, republican government, with a landmark system of checks and balances and a balance of powers unlike any ever seen before.

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