Political Science 1100, Introduction to American Politics, January 28, 2013
What were the Founders Thinking?
1. What is a Constitution?
Key choices: Who makes the laws? (legislative power)
Who puts the laws into effect and enforces them? (executive power)
Who settles disputes over the laws? (judicial power)
What is government not permitted to do to its citizens? (civil liberties)
2. What were Americans’ problems in 1787?
The States managed most policy in 1787
But the states could not deal with the nation's mounting problems
Rhode Island & Shays's rebellion
The Confederation government was very weak
3. Who was James Madison?
One of the most important delegates was James Madison
Who was James Madison?
What Madison wanted: The Virginia Plan
A strong, sovereign national government with broad authority
Proportional representation in two houses of Congress
4. Madison's dilemma:
making a new republican government that would last
that would last
5. Madison’s opponents at the Convention
Roger Sherman wanted
Equal representation of the states in Congress
A national government with narrow authority
The New Jersey Plan
6. The framers built the Constitution on political compromises
Compromise #1: Congress
Compromise #2: The presidency
Compromise #3: Slavery
Compromise #4: Federalism
6. The Results:
The U.S. Constitution has had many successes
gridlock was built into the Constitution -
Checks and balances were intended to make gridlock possible
Constitution created a government that is very hard to use when
Americans are passionately and evenly divided
– like they are now.
only works when politicians, like the framers, use all of their skills of negotiation and compromise