What was the original purpose of the Philadelphia Convention in 1787?
The meeting in Philadelphia had been called to discuss revising the Articles of Confederation, but the delegates quickly decided to scrap the articles and drafted a new governing document.
Describe the fundamental tenets of the Virginia Plan:
The Virginia Plan proposed:
- three branches of government with the legislative branch as the most powerful
- a bicameral (two-house) legislature, with the number of legislators in both houses tied to population
- members of the upper house chosen by the lower house, and executive chosen by both houses
The Virginia Plan was supported by the larger states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York because it was tied to population.
In opposition to the Virginia Plan, delegates from smaller states supported the New Jersey Plan. What were this plan's key terms?
The New Jersey Plan's terms included:
- an elected unicameral (one-house) legislature, with equal representation for each state
- an executive, chosen by the legislature
- a judiciary, chosen by the executive
- a legislature that could regulate interstate and foreign commerce and establish tariffs
How were the differences between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan resolved?
Roger Sherman of Connecticut proposed a plan that incorporated ideas from both the Virginia and New Jersey Plans, known as the "Connecticut Compromise" or the "Great Compromise." The Compromise created a bicameral legislature, with one house based on population (the House of Representatives) and one with equal representation (the Senate).
Most important, the Connecticut Compromise saved the convention, which had been on the brink of dissolving.
As part of the deliberations in Philadelphia, the delegates agreed to the Three-Fifths Compromise. What was it?
The Three-Fifths Compromise was an agreement between northern and southern states that three-fifths of the slave population would be counted for purposes of taxation and representation.
The South's population was growing more rapidly than the North's in the late 1700s. To solidify their region's supremacy in the House of Representatives, Southerners wanted slaves counted for purposes of population, which the North opposed.
What are the five basic constitutional principles, as established within the Constitution?
The five basic constitutional principles are:
- limited government
- separation of powers
- checks and balances
- popular sovereignty
A sixth principle, judicial review, would be established by the Supreme Court in Marbury v. Madison (1803).
The Constitution's Preamble listed six reasons for establishing the Constitution. What were they?
The Preamble states that the Constitution was established in order to:
- form a more perfect Union
- establish Justice
- ensure domestic tranquility
- provide for the common defence [sic]
- promote the general Welfare
- secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our Posterity
Each of these principles addressed weaknesses that had arisen in the Articles of Confederation government.
Which constitutional article established the legislative branch?
The legislative branch was established in Article I, the lengthiest and most detailed of any of the articles. It established Congress' powers and limitations, its method of election, and outlined the qualifications of members.
What is meant by the term "enumerated powers"?
Enumerated powers, or expressed powers, refer to the 17 powers specifically delegated to Congress in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution. These powers include the power to coin money, to provide for an army and navy, and to borrow money.
What constitutional provision is known as the "Elastic Clause"?
The Elastic Clause, also known as the Necessary and Proper Clause, is the final clause in Article I, Section 8. It allows Congress "[t]o make all [l]aws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into [e]xecution the foregoing powers..."
Congress and the Supreme Court have paired this clause with the Commerce Clause to provide the constitutional justification for many federal laws covering subject matter not specifically delineated in the enumerated powers.
Which portion of Article I, Section 8, establishes Congress' power over interstate commerce?
Congress' power over interstate commerce is established in the Commerce Clause, which allows Congress "[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."
The Commerce Clause has been used (often paired with the Elastic Clause) to justify federal intervention and laws in almost any matter, as long as some tie can be found to commerce or the economy.
Article II establishes the executive branch and how a president is elected. What relevant institution is also defined in Article II?
the Electoral College
Much of the Electoral College system proved unworkable after the development of political parties and was amended by the Twelfth Amendment in 1803, establishing the current Electoral College.
What powers does Article II provide to the executive branch?
Article II gives the president the power to:
- command the military
- with the Senate's advice and consent, make treaties, appoint ambassadors, ministers, judges, and the heads of departments (e.g. the Secretary of State)
- call Congress into special session
- grant reprieves and pardons
- adjourn Congress
According to Article II, what are the president's responsibilities?
Under Article II, the president must:
- report on the State of the Union
- recommend to Congress any measures the president deems "necessary and expedient"
- receive foreign ambassadors and representatives
- care for the faithful execution of the law
- commission officers in diplomatic and military service
Article II's last section describes the removal of the president, vice president, and all civil officers from their offices. What is the removal process called?
The removal process is called "impeachment"; however, actual removal requires a conviction in the Senate of "[t]reason, [b]ribery, or other [h]igh crimes and [m]isdemeanors."
Only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached, and neither was removed.
Article III establishes what governmental branch?
Article III establishes the judicial branch; specifically the Supreme Court and "such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."
According to Article III, how long do federal judges retain their positions on the bench?
Under Article III, federal judges "shall hold their [o]ffices during good [b]ehavior," which is typically taken to mean that judges have lifetime tenure and can only be removed by impeachment.
In comparison, many state court judges must stand for election.
Article III states that Congress may not reduce federal judges' salaries during their time in office. Why were these provisions enacted?
The framers enacted these provisions to prevent Congress from pressuring federal judges with the threat of reduced pay, thus making the judiciary more independent.
What is the difference between original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction?
Original jurisdiction is the power to hear a case for the first time, while appellate jursidiction allows a court to review a lower court's decision.
Article III gives the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over what types of cases?
According to Article III, the Supreme Court is the first court to hear:
- Cases involving ambassadors, ministers, and counsel
- Cases in which at least one party is a state (i.e. cases in which the Federal Government has a controversy with a state, or two states are suing each other)
In addition to establishing the principle of judicial review, Marbury v. Madison (1803) held that Congress may not expand the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction.
What types of cases are heard under the Supreme Court's Article III appellate jurisdiction?
The court's appellate jurisdiction commonly extends to:
- any case arising under the Constitution
- any case involving a treaty
- admiralty and maritime cases
- controversies between a state and citizens from another state or foreign citizens (abrogated by the 11th Amendment)
- controversies between citizens of different states
In addition, Congress can grant expanded appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court.
Article III provides for a trial by _____ in all criminal trials, a right further expanded in the Sixth Amendment.
Article III guarantees a jury trial except in cases of impeachment.
Article III defines which crime as consisting "only in levying War against them (the United States), or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort"?
This passage is Article III's definition of treason and provides that no one shall be convicted of treason absent the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or the accused's confession.
Article III also prevents the federal government from convicting the traitor's relatives merely because they are related. Such convictions were allowed in Great Britain.
Article IV contains the "Full Faith and Credit" Clause, which obligates states to do what?
The clause requires that each state honor judgments and public records from other states.
The clause reads that "[F]ull faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of other states."
What does Article IV's Privileges and Immunities Clause require?
The Privileges and Immunities Clause requires that states not discriminate against citizens of other states in favor of their own citizens.
According to Article IV, after a purported criminal flees to a different state, who can request that the different state extradite (return) the criminal?
Under Article IV, the extradition request must come from the governor of the state where the criminal act took place.
According to Article IV, which branch of the federal government authorizes the formation of new states?
New states are authorized by the legislative branch. Importantly, Article IV prohibits new states from being formed out of the territory of existing states without that state's permission.
Pursuant to Article IV, what form of government does the federal government guarantee to each state?
Article IV contains the federal government's guarantee of a republican form of government.
Only rarely reviewed by the Supreme Court, scholars believe this clause was designed to allow the federal government to intervene in the case of an intrastate insurrection, such as Shay's Rebellion, and guarantees that each state is governed by representative institutions.
In Article V, the Constitution provides two means for proposing amendments. What are they?
The two means for proposing amendments are:
- 2/3 of each house can pass a resolution supporting an amendment
- a proposal can be drafted at a national convention, if requested, by 2/3 of the states
The national convention provision has never been exercised.
Once a constitutional amendment has been proposed, what two procedures under Article V allow for its ratification?
Under Article V, either 3/4 of the state legislature, or 3/4 of state conventions called for the purpose, must approve the amendment for it to become part of the Constitution.
The state ratifying convention method has only been used once -- for the Nineteenth Amendment.
Congress can, if it so desires, establish a time limit by which ratification must take place.