Sunday
April 20, 2014

Homework Help: American Government

Posted by Mike on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 2:47am.

I know it's long but it would be really helpful if someone could read over this. Thank you.

(Describe the problems that surfaced under the Articles of Confederation (8-10 problems we discussed in class) soon after the Revolutionary War. Use these problems and give a brief overview of Article I, II, III, IV, V, VI and the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution and explain how each of these sections of the U.S. Constitution attempts to address the problems under the Articles of Confederation. Close with an explanation of how the Constitution can be amended (there are two ways) and the role the U.S. Constitution plays in establishing the concept of the "rule of law" in American government and society.)


The Articles of Confederation were adopted in 1781. However by 1787, only six years later, they were revised. The reason for such a short period between its adoption and its revision was due to the many problems that occurred.

The first problem that surfaced under the Articles of Confederation was that congress could not regulate commerce. Because the states held most of the power, they could not be taxed. With the lack of money coming in, the central government could not support a war effort successfully. It also had little power to settle problems between states. With a weak government that had little control over the states, the states were on the brink of economic disaster. States insisted on printing their own money and requiring it for payments tariffs and the purchase of goods. Paper money was flooding in the country causing massive inflation and forcing many businesses into debt. Many upper class Americansí fears were confirmed that anarchy was right around the corner.

Another problem under the Articles was the failure of an authority figure to regulate interstate commerce. Although congress was able to negotiate foreign treaties, it did not have the authority to control trade between the individual states and foreign countries. States were solely granted the right to levy imposts on foreign goods, they freely interpreted this to mean goods from other countries as well as other states in the United States. State governments sought commercial advantage over other states, and based their policies on what would bring their state the biggest rewards, not what was best for the common economic good. These interstate trade wars developed because states with clear commercial advantages abused their power. The states without the advantages of ports relied on states with ports to support them.

The Confederation Congress represented the thirteen states through one vote each, regardless of state population. This disproportionate representation meant that states with large populations, such as Virginia and Massachusetts, would be treated equally with smaller states like Connecticut. This led to the larger states with the bigger populations arguing with the smaller states, saying that it was unfair and that they did not have enough representation. Congress did not recognize the population differences among states which was a major problem.

The fact that there were no federal courts was another problem that the Articles of Confederation presented. This was a problem because there were no courts to interpret laws or to judge those that broke them. Disputes between the states could not be settled and they often refused to recognize or enforce the laws of other states. This led to fugitives and criminals being able to escape prosecution by crossing state lines.

Approving new laws or changes to the Articles was a major problem. In order to change or amend the Articles, unanimous approval of the states was required which basically meant that changes to the Articles were impossible. The two-thirds majority needed to make new laws was a flaw. For any major laws to pass they had to be approved by 9 or the 13 states which proved difficult to do so that even the normal business of running a government was difficult. Even if Congress managed to get the necessary majority, it relied on the states to voluntarily give Congress the money to carry those laws out. It also relied on the states to voluntarily enforce the laws because the Congress had no right to force the states to comply with the laws Congress passed.

The last problem I am going to mention is that the weak central government also lacked the power to back its policies with military strength. As a result, it was handicapped in foreign affairs. The British refused to withdraw their troops from the forts and trading posts in the new nation's Northwest, as they had agreed to do. To make matters worse, British officers on the northern boundaries and Spanish officers to the south supplied arms to various Indian tribes that allowed them to attack American settlers.

Article I of the US Constitution which is the longest article which describes the Congress. It vests legislative power in the Senate and House of Representatives. Section nine lists eight limits on congressional power. Section 10 limits the rights of the states. This section attempts to correct the problem of the states having too much power. It denies many of the wrongful actions the states took when the Articles of Confederation was in place.

Article II creates the presidency and states that the executive power is vested in the president. The powers of the president include serving as commander in chief of the army and navy, making treaties, and, with the "advice and consent of the Senate," appointing ambassadors, officials, and Supreme Court justices. This article addresses the problem that there was no executive with power during the Articles of Confederation. The president of the US only presided over congress.

Article III describes the judicial branch, including the Supreme Court. It states that there must be one court called the Supreme Court and Congress may create lower courts at its discretion whose judgments are reviewable by the Supreme Court. The types of cases the courts have jurisdiction are also given. Finally, it creates the right to trial by jury in all criminal cases. One of the problems with the Articles of Confederation was that there was no system of federal courts. As I talked about above, this presented many problems. The US Constitution remedied this by creating a system of federal courts which helped maintain the rule of law.

Article IV describes the relationship between states and federal government. It talks about how a citizen of any state must have the same privileges as citizens of all the other states. Article IV also provides for adding new states to the union, guarantees each state a republican form of government, and ensures protection against invasion or domestic violence. This article provided a way to create and admit new states into the union that previously didnít exist.

Article V describes the process for amending the constitution. Regardless of the method of proposing an amendment, final ratification requires approval by three-fourths of the states. This article corrects a major problem in the Articles of Confederation. In order to change or amend the Articles, unanimous approval of the states was required which basically meant that changes to the Articles were impossible. Now, since only three-fourths of the states are requires to ratify an amendment, it is possible to do.

Article VI establishes the Constitution, and the laws and treaties of the United States made according to it, to be the supreme law of the land, and that "the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the laws or constitutions of any state notwithstanding." It also says that that the states' constitutions and laws should not conflict with the laws of the federal constitution and that in case of a conflict, state judges are legally bound to honor the federal laws and constitution over those of any state. This helped to solve the problem of the states holding too much power by making them create and abide by the laws according to the Constitution. It also help to solve interstate commerce.

The constitution may be amended one of two ways. The first method is for a bill to pass both houses of the legislature, by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it goes on to the states. The second method, which has never been used, is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and for that Convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions.

The rule of law was strengthened by the US Constitution. The creation of a federal system with a supreme national government, the separation of governmental powers into three branches that check and balance each other, its flexibility and the establishment of a republican form of government. It is something the government cannot create or destroy. Nobody is above the law and society must abide by the guidelines set forth by the Constitution.

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