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1.4 Key Concepts in the Constitution

On September 17, 1787, the work of the Convention was completed and 39 delegates signed the Constitution. Benjamin Franklin remarked as he looked at the figure of the half sun painted on Washington’s chair, "I have often and often in the course of the session looked at that sun without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length, I am happy to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun."

The Fathers of the Constitution agreed to certain basic concepts in the Constitution. They are as follows:

Republican Form of Government was set up by the free and independent states. They were not direct democracies. They were representative democracies in part, since many of the states maintained voting qualifications based on sex, property and other considerations. It was decreed that the people final held power, which they enforced through their representatives.

The Separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers characterized both the state and federal governments. While the legislature (Congress) consisted of those in charge of formulating the laws, the executive (President) was responsible for enforcing the laws, and the judiciary (courts) consisted of people responsible for interpreting the laws. The Constitution assumed that there would be cooperation among the three branches of government, as well as checking and balancing of powers.

A Federation was established, by which certain powers were allocated to the Central government, with its headquarters in Washington. The other powers were reserved to be exercised by the states or their subdivisions.

1.4a Six Basic Principles

The framers of the Constitution agreed to six basic principles without dispute:

First : All states would be equal. One state could not be given special privileges by the national government.

Second: There had to be three branches of government; one to make laws, another to execute them, and a third to settle disputes.

Third: All persons, whether rich or poor, are equal before the law. They can demand protection of the law in exercising their rights.

Fourth : No one is above the law. No officer of the Government can use authority unless permitted to do so by the Constitution on the law.

Fifth :The authority of the Government can be changed by changing the Constitution.

Sixth : The highest law in the land comprises of the Constitution, the Act of Congress and the treaties of the United States. A state law conflicting with them cannot be enforced in the national courts.


1.0 - Introduction
1.1 The Continental Congress
1.2 The Articles of Confederation
1.3 The Constitutional Convention
1.4 Key Concepts in the Constitution
1.5 Summary of the Constitution
1.6 The Debate over Ratification
1.7 The Amendment Process
1.8 The Bill of Rights
1.9 Subsequent Amendments

Chapter 2

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