1. The Constitution as An Enduring Document
1.1 The American Constitution (Introduction)
The constitution of United states is the supreme law of the land and the central instrument of American government. It is the oldest written Constitution in force (the oldest unwritten constitution is the one of UK) in the whole world. For more than 2 centuries it has served as a model for a number of other constitutions around the world, because it has guided the evolution of governmental institutions and has provided the basis for political stability, individual freedom, economic growth, and social progress. The power of US´constitution is in it´s simplicity and flexibility. At first, it was meant as a tool for governing for 4 million people in 13 colonies, later on 27 amendmends were added and nowadays the constitution serves for more than 260 million people from one ocen to another, in 50 states.
It´s development was not very easy. The first document which could be called „ a constitution“ was the Mayflower Contract – a document designed by the early settlers of the area of US. It was the year 1776 when the 13 British colonies decided to tear up from the mothercountry with a formal support of Decaration of Independence. This was a signal for the UK to start a war to remain the colonies and for the US to become an integral independent nation. Two years later the articles of Confederation were signed, but they were not yet ratified because of the war, the ratification process was fullfilled in the year 1781 by the 13th state Maryland. These pre-constitution was just a loose union among the states. It was not a guarantee for stability or strength, that is the reason why after 13 years, a new constitution was born on the soil of chaos and insecurity.
1.2 Drafting the Constitution
In February 1787 the continental Congress, the legislative body of the republic send delegates to Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation.Nobody had expected that the 55 delegates would draft a completely new document – nearly perfect in fact perfect in fact. They were only authorized to amend the Articles and to construct a new charter for a more centalized government. The 55 delegates are called the Founding Fathers, included most of the leading characters of the new nation. They were from all kinds of social sciences such as politics, social studies and other backgrouds of social life. However, once allowed to do one thing, they did a big deal not only in US but also in world´s history. The new constitution was was completed on September 17, 1787, and was officially adopted on March 4, 1789. The new era could be started.
1.3 Uniting a Diverse People
America had been settled in large part by Europeans who had left their motherlands to escape from political or religios discriminations, and to reach economic welfare. This was not enabled on the Old Continent, that is why many people left to settle a New Continent, enabling freedom, life and property. The people were so different coming from the countries of the UK, Norwegians, Prussians, Russians, Dutch, Poles and others. The diversity of the new nation was also a formidable obstacle to unity. Their religios beliefs were varied, economically and socially there were great gaps between rich and poor ones, but we can say that the backbone was the middle class of the country.
The diversity offers a wide range of oppinions, increased number of immigration in the past 2 centuries build up a face of USA to what it is today. It was the continuing job of the Constitution and the government it had created to draw this disparate interrests together, to crate a common ground and, at the same time, to protect the fundamental rights of all people.
The Constitution and the federal government stand at the peak of a governmental pyramid that includes local and state jurisdiction. In the Us system each level of government has a large degree of autonomy with certain powers reserved particulary to itself.
2. Constitution as Supreme Law
2.1 Supreme law of the land
The US Constitution calls itself the „supreme law of the land“. Courts have interpreted this clause to mean taht when state constitutions or laws passed by state legislatures or by national Congress are found to conflict with the federal Constituion, these laws have no force. Decisions handed down by the supreme Court over the course of two centuries have confirmed and strenghtened this doctrine of constitutional supremacy.
Final authority is vested in the American people, who can change the fundamental law, if they wish, , by amending the Constitution or – in theory, at least – drafting a new one. The people do not exercise their authority directly, however. They delegate the day to day business of government to public officials, both elected and appointed.
The power of public officials is limited under the Constitution. Their public actions must conform to the Constitution and to the laws made in accordance with the constitution. Elected officials must stand for reelection at periodic intervals, when their records are subject to intensive public scrutiny. Appointed officials serve at the pleasure of the person or authority who appointed them and may be removed at any time. The exception to this practise is the lifetime appointment by the president of justices of the Supremem Court and other federal judges, so that they may be free of political obligations or influence.
Most commonly, the American people express their will through the ballot box. The Constitution, however, does make provision for the removal of a public official from office, in cases of extreme misconduct or malfeasance, by the process of impeachment.It is a charge of misconduct brought against a government official by a legislative body, it does not, as is commonly thought, refer to conviction of such charges. As set forth in the Constitution, the House of Representatives must bring charges of misconduct by voting a bill of impeachment. The accused official is then tried in the Senate, with the chief justice of the Supreme Court presiding at the trial.
Impeachment is considered a drastic measure, one that has been used on only rare occasions in the United states. Since 1797 the House of Representatives has voted articles of impeachment against 16 federal officilas – two presidents, one cabinet member, one senator, one justice of the Supreme Court, and 11 federal judges. Of those impeached, the Senate has convicted seven, all of them judges.
In the year 1868, President Andrew Johnson was impeached over issues relating to the proper treatment of the defeated Confederate states following the American Civil War. The Senate, however, fell one vote short of the two – thirds majority necessery to for conviction, and Johnson comleted his full term in office. In 1974, as a result of the Watergate affair, President Richard Nixon resigned from office after the Judiciary Comitee of the House recommended impeachment, but before the full house of Representatives could vote on a bill of impeachment.
As recently as 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. After a trial, the Senate acquited the president on both charges, voting not for guilty perjury by a margin of 55 – 45 obstruction of justice. To remove the president from office would have required a guilty verdict by a majority of 67 votes on eitheir charge.
2.2 The Principles of Government
Although the Constitution has changed in many aspects since it was first adopted, its basic principles remain the same now as in 1789.
• The three main branches of government – executive, legislative, judicial – are separate and distinct from one another. The powers given to each are delicately balanced by the powers of the another two. Each branch serves as a check on potential excesses of the others (system of checks and balances).
• The Constitution, together with laws passed according to its provisions and treaties entered into by the the president and approved by the Senate, stands above all other laws, executive acts, and regulations.
• All persons are equal before the law and are equally entitled to its protection. All states are equal, and none can receive special treatment from the federal government. Within the limits of the Constitution, each state must recognize and respect the laws of the others. State governments, like the federal government, must be democratic in form, with final authority resting with the people.
• The people have the right to change their form of national government by legal means defined in the Constitution.
Ďaľšie referáty z kategórie
American democracy and Constitution
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