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
Second: There had to be three branches of government; one to
make laws, another to execute them, and a third to
Third: All persons, whether rich or poor, are equal before
the law. They can demand protection of the law in exercising
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.