What makes a perfect union? Is it every person having an equal voice?
What constitutes a free society? Is it just our basic civil rights? In
this essay I will discuss politics in general, the Articles of
Confederation, Shay’s Rebellion, the Constitutional Convention and the
Great Compromise, amending the Constitution and the amendments, several
important supreme court rulings, and the influence of polling.
Yourdictionary.com describes politics as “The art or science of
government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity,
such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and
external affairs.” I think most people would be surprised to hear politics
described as an art or a science. I believe it to be much more a science
than an art. Well educated and highly opinionated men test ideas in their
courthouses and laboratories. Sometimes an important challenge arises and
many experts scramble for a solution.
The articles of confederation were basically an early constitution,
laying down the most important ideas but lacking in important detail. One
important lacking detail being that the articles, while helping to ensure
the states stayed together, didn’t unify the states economically. Another
important lacking detail was that it didn’t require the individual states
to pay the necessary revenue to defend the state against the Spanish and
British, nor to defend itself from armed rebels.
In 1774 our country faced a serious depression because weakness of
the Articles of Confederation. The states fought each other by taxing each
others goods and sometimes stopping trade altogether. This depression got
so bad the banks had to stop giving loans and start calling on citizens to
pay their debt. Anyone who couldn’t pay was charged and imprisoned. In
august 1786, led by a former revolutionary captain Daniel Shays a band of
musket wielding farmers stormed the courthouses and interrupted trials of
individuals being prosecuted for not paying debts. This event proved for
most that the articles did not adequately provide for the military and
police to enforce our ideals.
The Virginia legislature called for a meeting of all the states in
Maryland, on Sept. 11, 1786 to discuss commercial problems caused by the
Articles. At this meeting a call was issued for a general convention in
Philadelphia “to discuss the exigencies of the union” in may, 1787. This
would later be known as the Constitutional convention. The Virginia
delegates had arrived early and already had the Virginia plan completed
when George Washington opened the convention. It called for creation of an
unspecified national executive elected by the legislature and national
judiciary appointed by the legislature. It also called for a bicameral
legislature, a lower house being chosen by the people, and a smaller upper
house consisting of representatives from each state. Each state would send
a number of representatives proportional to the states population, giving
favor to the larger states.
On June 15th 1787 William Paterson of New Jersey offered the New
Jersey plan, a not so drastic change basically enforcing the articles main
principal of one state, one vote, and amending it to give congress more
power. With tension between the small states and the large states building,
Roger Sherman of Connecticut offers a compromise.
He put forth the idea of a bicameral legislature in which the house of
representatives consists of a number of representatives proportional to the
number of free inhabitants in each state. Furthermore the compromise would
call for an upper house, or the senate, which would have two
representatives from each state elected by the legislature. The small and
large states had come to a mutually beneficial agreement.
The Constitution is a very flexible document depending on what part
of it you are trying to bend. Furthermore some officials can do more
bending than others. For example the president is given no authority by the
constitution to propose bills, but presidents have proposed hundreds of
bills each year since 1913. The constitution also gives the president no
authority to make war without the consent of congress, but he does and is
not the first president to try. Judges can bend the constitution. Although
it is not specifically granted by the Constitution, Judicial Review can be
used as a tool to change the constitution. Judicial Review is the power of
the courts to invalidate actions taken by the executive branch or congress.
Also the Constitution in constantly changed by both congress and the
president though constant reinterpretation over the years.
The supreme court ruled in 1896 using judicial review that black citizens
being given “separate but equal” public facilities was in fact
constitutional. In 1954 it came to light that “separate but equal” was a
form of discrimination, and the courts overturned this ruling.
Baltimore Maryland, 1819 a cashier at the second national bank James
William McCulloch loses his case in state court for refusing to pay the
unfair tax imposed by the state of Maryland on the bank. The national
government appeals his case to the Supreme Court. Did the national
government have the “implied power” granted by the constitutions necessary
and proper clause to charter the first and second national bank using tax
payers money for capital? Also if the banks were constitutional, could the
state of Maryland tax them? Who should win when the state and national
government conflict? The judge decreed that if creating a bank helps the
national government exercise its designated powers, than the authority to
create such a bank was implied.
The constitution so-called commerce clause provides that congress is
given the right to “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the
several states, and with the Indian Tribes.” What was meant exactly by
commerce? Does commerce include the shipment of people? Does congress have
the right to interfere with commerce inside state lines? These were all
questions to be answered by Chief Justice John Marshall, the very same
judge from McCulloch v. Maryland discussed in the previous paragraph. In
the case of Gibbons v. Ogden in 1824, Marshall answered all these questions
by stating that commerce referred to all commercial intercourse, including
the navigation and transport of people.
The I amendment grants us the right to freedom of speech, press,
assembly, and to petition the government for redress of grievances. It
furthermore forbids congress from establishing an official church. The I
amendment is the most important amendment because it establishes our
individual innate rights that can not be infringed upon. This amendment
should be unrestrained and protected at all costs.
The XIV amendment was one of the more important amendments because is
didn’t pertain to the national government but to the state government and
its treatment of citizens. It ensured that citizen not be striped of rights
given by the national government and to be free from state discrimination.
It held that our individual rights given to us at birth can not be
infringed upon by the state we live in.
A poll is but a snapshot of public opinion at the time the poll is
given. Since public opinion is bases on gossip and media, public opinion is
whatever was on TV this morning or whatever verbal slip up someone
important might have made. The public lacks the ability as a whole to look
at the whole picture, and to distinguish fact from opinion. Therefore a
public poll should never be relied upon to sway the scales of any political
The constitution we have formed over two hundred years is clearly the
most perfect document ever created. It has come along way since its
beginnings at the constitutional convention of 1787. It was designed to
make the journey. Designed to serve the same propose though very different
times. It has been and may always be our guiding light as a nation, and we
should do all we can to preserve it.