The US Constitution


Main Ideas:

1.      The Constitution developed through a series of compromises

2.      The Constitution redefined the relationship between the national and state governments

3.      The powers of government are limited by a system of checks and balances

4.      The Constitution is a living, changing, document

 Material Covered:

1.      Framers and primary Author

2.      Conflict and Compromise: Great Compromise (Virginia Plan, New Jersey Plan), 3/5 Compromise, Slave/import-export trade compromise, Electoral college compromise

3.      The Document & Structure: Federalism, 3 branches, Checks & Balances

a.       Federalism: delegated, reserved, concurrent powers

b.      Legislative Branch

                                                                           i.      Bicameral: compare & Contrast House of Representatives and Senate

                                                                         ii.      Primary Responsibility: to pass laws (how a bill becomes a law) standing committees/chairpersons/political majority/seniority/elastic clause

                                                                        iii.      New powers given to Congress under the Articles

c.       Executive Branch

                                                                           i.      Electing the President: qualifications, caucus v. convention, primaries, platform, Electoral College, Amendments: 12, 20, 22, 23

                                                                         ii.      Roles of President

                        d.      Judicial Branch

                                                                           i.      Qualifications: method of selection and length of service

                                                                         ii.      Philosophy: activism v restraint

                                                                        iii.      Jurisdiction: original v. appellate

                                                                       iv.      Judicial Review: 1803, Chief Justice John Marshall. Marbury v. Madison

e.       Checks and Balances: purpose and examples

4.      Ratifying the Constitution: Federalists v Anti-Federalists(Democratic-Republicans)

5.      Protection on Individual Liberties

a.       Original Document: Habeas Corpus, no bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws

b.      Bills of Rights: freedom, protection, privacy, due process, federalism

6.      Amending the Constitution

7.      Unwritten Constitution

a.       Cabinet

b.      Political Process

c.       Two term tradition (22nd Amendment)

d.      Judicial Review

e.       Committee System in Congress

f.        Expectation that electors will vote for their party’s candidate

8.      Constitutional Flexibility: elastic clause