United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the United States of America. The constitution that was created after the declaration of independence of the ‘New World’ not only tied the American people and the nation together, but also established an ideal before the world. The US Constitution is the world’s first written constitution, which includes aspects such as the nature of the state, rights of citizens, the principle of separation of powers, and judicial review.
The US Constitution is a written constitution. From its inception in the year 1789 till today, it has been continuously changing and developing according to the changing environment and needs.
Charles A. According to Beard, “The Constitution of America is a printed document that is interpreted by judicial decisions, past events and practices, and which is illuminated by understanding and aspirations.”
On 17 September 1787, the Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and ratification of conventions in eleven states. It came into effect on 4 March 1789.
Even after the adoption of the constitution, it has been amended twenty-seven (27) times. The first ten amendments (along with the remaining two that were not ratified at the time) were proposed by Congress on September 25, 1789 and ratified by the required three-quarters of the US on December 15, 1791. These first ten amendments are known as ‘Bills of Rights’.
Importance of the US Constitution
The importance of the US Constitution becomes clear from the fact that it was born at a time when the “Monarchy” of France, the “Holy Kingdom” in Rome, the “Orders of Heaven” and the “Saint Empire” existed in Peking. Over a period of time, the states gradually got absorbed in the womb of the past and the American Constitution, despite all the conflicts and conflicts, is still alive and an ideal.
The making of the US Constitution provided the basis for a written and democratic government to the world. Many countries of the world made it the basis in the making of their constitutions. The US Constitution is the most prominent source of written legislation giving rights to citizens. The principle of separation of power is important in the constitution. The establishment of a federal government and the supremacy of the judiciary are the cornerstones of the modern political system. The Constitution of America has an important contribution in making the world’s major power.
Making of the American Constitution
The constitution that was created in America went through many phases and debates. Before understanding the features of the US Constitution, it would be desirable to know the challenges before the framers of the Constitution.
Challenges before the framers of the Constitution
(1) To bring the work of nation building which was started from the attainment of independence to its completion, that is, to encourage development while keeping the heterogeneous society in unity.
(2) What should be the nature of the state – democratic or federal.
(3) One of the topics of debate was about the supreme sovereignty of the center versus the states, apart from this there were some other issues as well. Like whether all the states should be given equal status or not, how the states should be represented in the union.
Vote of supporters of democratic government
People who believed in the tradition of democracy believed that the scope and power of the government should be limited, that is, the center should be less powerful than the states, because if the center is too powerful, then the freedom of citizens will be hampered and the identity of the states will be lost. On the economic issue, this class believed that wealth should not be accumulated in the hands of only a few persons and for equitable distribution of income, small agricultural farms should be replaced by big agricultural farms. The distribution of land in the western region should be done among different families who can settle in these areas and do their own farming. This class was led by Thomas Jefferson in America.
Opinion of supporters of the oligarchic government
In America, there was another class of people who believed in oligarchy by landowners, merchants and moneylenders. The principal spokesman of this class was Hamilton. This class believed that democratic rule based on majority would violate individual rights. This class believed that the real power should not be in the common man but should be vested in the high and intellectual class because the common people are ignorant and undisciplined.
The elites wanted a powerful central government because they believed that only a powerful central government would protect the interests of industrialists and traders.On the economic issue, the view of the elite class was that the right to property should be guaranteed and the government should provide security to the lenders. The government should help the traders, moneylenders, and other capitalists. In relation to the land of the western region, this class wanted to protect the interests of the wealthy class who speculators the land.
After the controversies regarding the making of the constitution, in 1776 AD, a committee was formed by taking one member from each colony of the Continental Congress. His main task was to consider the constitution of such a confederation, under which all the colonies could unite and continue the campaign of freedom struggle or freedom struggle. In 1781 AD, all the colonies accepted the constitution. This is called America’s first constitution or wartime short-lived constitution.
Features of the Wartime Constitution
For the first time, the union of the colonies was given the name “United States of America”.
The form of government was federal i.e. central government was established whose powers were fixed and limited. A unicameral “Congress” was established to conduct federal work.
In this Congress, each state will send 2-7 representatives every year, but the vote value of each state will be the same.
A majority of nine out of 13 states would be necessary for a motion to be accepted.
Congress was given the right to establish diplomatic relations with other nations, to issue currency, to take loans, to declare war and to make treaties, to formulate policies related to money and credit.
The states were made more powerful than the center and it was said that the powers which were not explicitly delegated to Congress would remain vested in the states’ jurisdiction. The states were given immense powers in the matter of taxation and external government.
With the establishment of a weak center and the formation of powerful states, the states began to understand themselves as separate independent entity.
Congress could not regulate the mutual trade and commerce of the states.
It was up to the states whether to implement the decision of the Congress in their area or not.
In this way, this constitution continued during the war, but after the end of the war, the differences between the states started to emerge. The Constitution started being neglected and the successful operation of the federal system started getting hampered. Therefore, there was talk of amendments in the constitution made during the war. Intellectuals and political leaders like James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington advocated a powerful government under a strong federal system. In this context, in 1787, a convention of 55 delegates from 12 states was held in Philadelphia (Rhode Island was not included). George Washington presided over the conference. In this conference, by amending the sections of the constitution, through the Virginia Plan, a new constitution was formed by amending the sections of the new constitution, which is in force to date. The talk was done.
Features of the Constitution
The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America states that this constitution has been prepared by the “people of the United States”.
“The constitution of a national legislature called the Congress, consisting of two houses, the lower house – the House of Representatives and the upper house called the senate.
The principle of equality will be maintained in the Senate and accordingly two members (senators) will be drawn from each state. The term of each senator will be 6 years. The Senate got the right to consider all types of impeachment.
The representation of the states in the House of Representatives was decided on the basis of their population. The members of this house will be elected for a term of two years.
Under the constitution, two governments were established – one federal government and the other state government. There was a clear division of powers between the Union and the States.
The union was given the right to pay taxes, debts, regulation of trade commerce with foreign countries and between states, minting of coins, declaration of war, etc.
Constitutional Amendment The Congress may propose amendments to the Constitution on the basis of two-thirds votes of each House or, on receipt of applications from the legislatures of two-thirds of the total number of states, convene a convention to propose amendments.
The head of the executive will be the President and the President is neither elected by the Congress nor will he come directly from the people. A separate electorate will be formed for his election, in which the election of the included electors will be done according to the method prescribed by the legislatures of the states.
The number of electors of each state will be equal to some sum of the number of senators (members of the upper house) and representatives of the lower house of that state.
In the event of the death or removal of the person sitting on the President, all his powers shall be transferred to the Vice President.
There shall be a Supreme Court whose judges shall be elected by the President with the consent of the Senate.
The Bill of Rights was included as a fundamental right by making the first constitutional amendment in 1791 AD. Under this, the citizens of the United States were guaranteed freedom of speech, the press, religion, the petition, of assembly. Thus, in 1789 AD, the constitution was approved and George Washington was unanimously elected as the President, and George Adams was elected Vice President by the majority.
- Women were not given the right to vote.
- The Declaration of Independence did not apply to slaves i.e. the slavery system was retained. Later this issue of slavery pushed America towards civil war.
- Influence of rich class in constitution-making.
- The complicated process of the election of the President.
- Constitution as an economic document
Charles Baird, through the essay ‘An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, accused the framers of the constitution that they had tried to advance the vested interests of their economic class through this constitution. He pointed out that the social structure of the delegates attending the conference was such that they wanted to rig the economic benefits in their favor. Of these, 24 representatives belonged to the moneylender class, 15 representatives were from the northern region and slave owners, 14 representatives were related to the business of land dealing and betting, 11 representatives were merchants and shipbuilders. There was no representative of artisans, small farmers, and the poor in the conference. In this way, classes like moneylenders, merchants, businessmen involved in the conference talked about the establishment of a powerful union. This powerful central government will be able to levy various taxes from time to time.
This establishment of Charles Baird was challenged by many historians. Forrest MacDonald, in his book “We the People: The Economic Origins of Constitutions (1958)” states that the belief that the protection of the interests of the individual property was the main factor that changed the course of constitution-making. Gave. Whatever the background of those delegates who directly assisted in the adoption of the draft constitution, once they began participating in the convention, they became a unified economic group, not an individual class. As far as saying that the farmers opposed the constitution, it does not seem right because the constitution was easily adopted in mainly agricultural states like New Jersey, Maryland, Georgia. In this view, the interpretation of the nature of the constitution propounded by Charles Baird as an economic document cannot be fully accepted. Nevertheless, the distinctive contribution of his view lies in the fact that he drew attention to the nature of the US Constitution and inspired other historians to think about it. The foundational issues he raised have withstood the test of time in such a way as to attract the attention of the people to the nature of the Constitution and what is or should be emphasized in it.
Elements and Factors Influencing the Composition of the US Constitution
After independence, a constitution was needed to unite the heterogeneous and pluralistic society with various customs, in order to reach the perfection of nation-building. Not only this, the issues on which the colonies had revolutionized were also to be resolved through the constitution. The following elements and factors influenced the composition of the constitution:
Giving the country the form of a republic: Many countries of the world had a monarchical system of government at that time and despite the presence of parliament, the king used to be autocratic. As a result, civil liberties were hampered. To overcome that, it was necessary that a republican government should be formed, so the US Constitution talked about the establishment of a republic.
Adoption of a federal system: During the revolution, all thirteen American colonies worked together to fulfill the set goal. Now the issue was how to be “One out of many”. To meet this need, a federal system of government was established. The federation which came into existence to protect the common interests of the states was named the USA. With the establishment of the federation, the thirteen colonies were tied in the thread of unity and the citizens of each state were exempted from the same rights and taxes, etc. which were available to the citizens of other states.
Establishment of a powerful center: A powerful center was established so that the state could not try to become independent later because of its vested interests. On the other hand, provision was also made to maintain the identity of the states. This is the reason why it was written in the US Constitution – “Indestructible Union of Indestructible States”. A strong center was established for the regulation of mutual disputes and business relations between the states, a national legislature was created to run the federal government, in which there were two houses – one upper house (Senate) and the other lower house (House of Representatives). ). Since the colonies gave the slogan of no representation or tax during independence, keeping this in mind the principle of equality was maintained in the Senate, and provision was made to elect two/two members from each state.
Separation of Power Principle: The power of the government should not fall into any one hand and the executive should not become omnipotent and the freedom of the individual and civil rights are not violated, therefore the principle of division of powers between the executive, legislature, and judiciary in the constitution was adopted.
Role of the States in Amendment of the Constitution: It was necessary to give importance to their participation in the making of laws, giving adequate importance to the states. Therefore, a provision was made in the constitutional amendment process that on the basis of two-thirds of the votes of each house, the Congress would be able to present a proposal to amend the constitution or two-thirds of the total number of states, on receipt of an application from the legislature of the states, to propose the amendment. the conference will be called for.