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A Blueprint for Government The U.S. Constitution The FULL TEXT of the Constitution is available online at america.gov, along with its Arabic translation.

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Presentation on theme: "A Blueprint for Government The U.S. Constitution The FULL TEXT of the Constitution is available online at america.gov, along with its Arabic translation."— Presentation transcript:

1 A Blueprint for Government The U.S. Constitution The FULL TEXT of the Constitution is available online at america.gov, along with its Arabic translation. blue·print /ˈbluˌprɪnt/: a detailed outline or plan of action

2 After this lecture you should be able to answer the following questions: What is the Constitution and why was it written? What historical documents influenced the writers of the Constitution? What is inside the Constitution? – What are the three branches of government? – How can these three branches balance power? What is the significance of the Bill of Rights? What changes have been made to the Constitution? Who interprets the Constitution in modern America? How?

3 Articles of Confederation The 13 colonies used the Articles as guidelines for government from Ultimately, it was deemed a failure, for the following reasons: – There was no president or court. This meant a lack of centralized power. There was no one to carry out the laws or enforce them. This meant that no taxes were collected, so Congress had no money to do anything. – There was no control over the printing of money. By 1786, paper money was worthless, and each state had its own. – The army was small, and Congress couldnt pay them because of the money problems. They could not create a navy, which was desperately needed to protect American trade ships from pirates in the Atlantic Ocean. – The Articles required 9, and sometimes 13 states, to approve Congress decisions. Many states were not sending representatives, so no decisions could be made.

4 Writing the Constitution Between 1786 and 1787, Congress made the decision to replace the Articles with a new document. The United States Constitution was written in the Philadelphia by 55 men who attended the Philadelphia Convention, the meeting which was held to create the new document. The proceedings were kept secret, and consisted of much debate and discussion by some of the most well-educated men of the time. After it was written, the 55 men took the Constitution back to Congress. In 1788 it was ratified by 11 out of 13 states, and the new government was created. – rat·i·fy/ˈrætəˌfaɪ/: to confirm by expressing consent, approval, or formal sanction

5 Influential Philosophies According to diaries kept by the 55 men, the following documents had an influence on their thinking: – Commentaries on the Laws of England by William Blackstone. This book discussed rights and wrongs of people in a society, in the context of the common law of England. – The Spirit of the Laws by Baron de Montesquieu. This book discussed separation of powers and constitutionalism, the idea that government can be subject to a set of laws. – Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau. This book discussed the most efficient way to set up political community. Government should be of the people. – Two Treatises of Government by John Locke. This book discussed the idea that every man is created equal under God.

6 Content of the Constitution The Consitution consists of a preamble (introduction), seven articles, 27 amendments, and a paragraph certifying its enactment. The preamble begins, We the people, which is meant to remind our leaders that the power of the people is the fundamental basis for government in the United States. It sets up a federal system, which means that power is divided between national and state governments. It establishes a balanced national government by separating powers among 3 branchesthe executive, the legislative and the judicialand it creates a system in which the 3 branches can check and balance each others power.

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8 Early Criticism and the Creation of a Bill of Rights Most state constitutions adopted during the Revolution had included a clear declaration of the rights of the people. Declarations of rights limit the power of the government, and protect the people from abuse of power by the government. Most Americans at the time believed that the government should secure these rights, therefore, they believed the Constitution was incomplete without a declaration of such rights. A man named James Madison led the new Congress in proposing amendments. He suggested 15 total, Congress accepted 12 for consideration, and ultimately 10 were passed.

9 I. Freedom of religion, speech, and the press, and the right of assembly and to petition government The First Amendment prohibits Congress from creating an established church. It has been interpreted to forbid government support for religious doctrines. The amendment also prohibits Congress from passing laws to restrict worship, speech, the press, or to prevent people from assembling peacefully. In addition, Congress may not prevent people from petitioning government. II. Right to bear arms The Second Amendment has been interpreted by some to give citizens the right to possess firearms. Others believe it grants the states the right to maintain their own militias. III. Billeting of soldiers The Third Amendment forbids the government from housing soldiers in homes in peacetime without their owners' consent. IV. Searches and seizures The Fourth Amendment requires legal authorities to obtain a search warrant before conducting a search of a person's possessions. Bill of Rights

10 V. Rights in criminal cases The Fifth Amendment says that no one can be tried for a federal crime unless he or she is indicted by a grand jury, a group of citizens who decided whether there is sufficient evidence to put the person on trial. The amendment also states that a person cannot be tried twice for the same offense (unless the jury fails to reach a verdict). The amendment guarantees that individuals cannot be required to testify against themselves and cannot be deprived of "life liberty or property, without due process of law." The amendment also forbids government from taking a person's property for public use without fair payment. VI. Rights to a fair trial The Sixth Amendment guarantees a person accused of a crime the right to a "speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury" in the jurisdiction where the alleged crime was committed. The Amendment also guarantees that accused persons will be informed of the charges against them and that they have the right to cross- examine witnesses and to have a lawyer to defend them.

11 VII. Rights in civil cases The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial in civil lawsuits. VIII. Bails, fine, and punishments The Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail or fines and "cruel and unusual" punishments. IX. Rights retained by the people The Ninth Amendment ensures that rights unmentioned in the Bill of Rights are protected. X. Powers retained by the states and the people The Tenth Amendment ensures that the powers not delegated to the federal government are retained by the states and the people. Bill of Rights

12 Amendments Article 5 of the Constitution describes the process by which amendments are passed. The Bill of Rights is not the only thing that has been added, changed, or amended, in the Constitution. Among the 27 Amendments, important ones include: outlawing slavery, securing civil rights, giving women and African Americans the right to vote, limiting the number of terms the president can serve to 2, outlawing poll taxes so people did not have to pay to vote, and not allowing members of Congress to raise their own pay while they are in office. – a·mend·ment /əˈmɛndmənt/: an alteration [change] of or addition to a motion, bill, constitution, etc

13 Modern Day Significance of the Constitution The Supreme Court has the power to declare a law unconstitutional. In other words, the Supreme Court decides whether or not a law violates, or goes against, the principles in Constitution. When the Supreme Court makes a decision, they have to consider the meaning of the Constitution and the implications is has in modern America. This is a little bit like the idea of قياس and فقه. The Constitution does not directly say every law, therefore the Supreme Court is needed to interpret the meaning of the Constitution and judge the governments use of the law, and apply the Constitution.

14 Example: Near v. Minnesota (1931) In the state of Minnesota, two men began publishing a newspaper. In it, they wrote articles that targeted political figures, and accused them (sometimes with very strong language) of wrongdoing. One of the political figures was offended and filed a complaint. The city court then issued an order to the two men, telling them to stop publishing their newspaper. There was a local trial. The two men and their lawyer argued that the order was a legal violation of their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The men appealed for a different decision. The trial was moved to a higher court, until it reached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the two men, saying that the city court had violated their rights. In this case, the Supreme Court exercised its judgment upon a law that a city court had made, determining that the law was unconstitutional and therefore void.

15 Now you should be able to answer the following: What is the Constitution and why was it written? What historical documents influenced the writers of the Constitution? What is inside the Constitution? – What are the three branches of government? – How can these three branches balance power? What is the significance of the Bill of Rights? What changes have been made to the Constitution? Who interprets the Constitution in modern America? How?


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