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The American Constitution, the Bill of Rights.

The US system of government is based on the Constitution adopted in 1787. Separated from the feudal European states by the Atlantic Ocean the US was in a favourable position for the successful development of republican principles and the triumph of the anti-colonial revolution. The American Revolution unlike the Great French Revolution didn’t have to defend itself from numerous feudal powers. This was favourable for the development of the progressive social system.

After the War of Ind The US was not a unified nation but a group of 13 former colonies called states. Each had its own government and was like an independent nation.Each made its own laws, but there was the Congress of Delegates who adopted the Articles of Confederation, but they failed as the states didn’t cooperate with the Congress and each other. The Constitutional Convention opened in Philadelphia, May 25, 1787 with G.Washington presiding. The Constitution was adopted on Sept.17, 1787, it came into effect on March 4, 1789.

Out of 74 delegates chosen to represent the states only 55 attended sessions – the Founding Fathers (G.Washington, Alexander Hamilton, T.Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Flaming). The C. agreed upon with some amendments is in force to this date. C. consists of the preambule, 7 articles and 26 amendments.

When the C was first adopted there was wide-spread dissatisfaction as it didn’t guaratee certain basic freedoms, so in Dec., 1791 the Cogress adopted 10 amendments to the C known as the Bill of Rights. The Bill enumerated what the Government was not allowed to do. Jefferson described it as “what the people are entitled to against every governmetn on Earth”. It was an imp.democratic gain.

Freedom of press, speech, religion.

The right to bear arms.

Prohibition of quartering of troops.

Protection against unlawful search and seizure.

the right of due process of law.

the right to a fair and public trial (to have an attorney appointed by the court)

the right to a trial by jury

Prohibiton of cruel punishments (electrocushion)

Protection of non-enumerated rights

Reservation of powers. Powers notreserved for the Federal Government reside in the States.Some am-s are now relatively unimportant, but ¹1, 4-8 continue to be imp and significant. Other imp amendments: 13 (1865) – abolished slavery, 15 (1870) – forbade the denial to vote on account of race or color (black men got the right to vote), 18 (1919) – prohibited the production, trade and consumption of spirits,19 (1920) – established women’s suffrage, 22 (1951) – limited the presidential tenure of office to 2 elective terms, 23 (1961) – gavt the residents of Washington DC the right to vote in presidential elections, 26 (1970) – lowered the voting age to 18. The 27th amendment proposed 20 years ago (1984) on women’s equality hasn’t been adopted yet. ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) passed by the Congress but not ratified by the required number of states. In the US Constitution there is no amendment on maintaining international peace.

The Bill has been repeatedly violated, ex Mc Carthy campaign in New York in 1964 – the law was adopted allowing the police to break the doors or smash windows to search a building. Also the rights of the blacks are not still equal.

14. The structure of the Federal Government. The system of checks and balances.

The US is a democratic republic. The National Government is the gov.of all the people and their representatives. It’s called thr Federal Gov. because the nation is a federation of states. The US Constitution gave the FG oonly limited powers, all others belong to the individual states. The main principles of the governmental system: 1)separation of powers, 2)system of checks&balances, 3)federalism. 1)There are 3 branches of powers: legislative, executive, judicial. Each branch has dif.functions. no member of one branch can have a seat in the other two. 2) this system implies that each branch is checked and controlled by the other 2. this is to keep any branch from gaining too much power or from misusing its powers. The system makes compromise and consensus necessary. The system protects against extremes.

3) the division between the national gov, state and local gov-s. federalism is more efficient for large land massesbecause the local gov is much closer to their people than the federal.

National (federal) level: Congress – President, Administration – Supreme court, Federal courts. State: S.Legislature – Gov – S.Courts. Local (City): City Council – Mayor – Municipal Courts.


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 2172

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