Azusa Pacific University
Mr. Jonathon Pyles
September 14, 2004
"The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution"
I. Jefferson's letter to Henry Lee (may 8, 1825)
A. "Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c. ..."
B. The Declaration of Independence were not new ideas under the sun, they
were actually taken from philosophy and then became the expression of the American
C. Elementary Books of Right
Politics, Book 1, chapter 1
a. "Since we see that every city is some sort of partnership, and that every partnership is constituted for the sake of some goodÉit is clear that all partnerships aim at some good, and that the partnership that is most authoritative of all and embraces all the others does so particularly, and aims at the most authoritative good of all. This is what is called the city or the political partnership."
b. Partnership is two entities coming together for a purpose and common
Locke, Second Treatise of Government, chapter 2
a. "The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our's.
b. Definitely recognized that we are not made for one another, but rather
for God – animals are created for us, we were created for God
D. An Expression of the American Mind
1. James Otis, "The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved" (1764)
a. "The end of government being the good of mankind, points out its great duties: it is above all things to provide for the security, the quiet, and happy enjoyment of life, liberty, and property."
b. He apposed the Writs of Assistance, which basically gave the government
the ability to search private property with out a warrant
2. John Tucker, "An Election Sermon" (1771)
a. "For, it follows from what has been said, that as all disobedience in subjects, to constitutional authority, is rebellion against government, and merits punishment adequate to the crime, so all assumed power in Rulers, not granted them by the constitution, is without just authority, and so far forth, can claim no submission."
b. We have an obligation to obey all constitution authority
c. The question that rises is what constitution is he referring to?
i. Common Law
ii. Magna Carta
iii. Other important documents
3. Samuel Adams, "Rights of the Colonists" (1772)
a. "In short it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one or any number of men at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights when the great end of civil government from the very nature of its institution is for the support, protection and defense of those very rights: the principal of which as is before observed, are life, liberty, and property."
4. Thomas Jefferson, "A Summary View of the Rights of British America, etcÉ" (1774)
a. [Americans are seeking their rights, not favorÉ] "And this his majesty will think we have reason to expect, when he reflects that he is no more than the chief officer of the people, appointed by laws, and circumscribed with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government erected for their use, and consequently subject to their superintendence."
II. The Constitution
A. Goal of the Revolution
secure their natural, unalienable rights, including (but not limited to) life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
3. "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and Happiness." Declaration of Independence
Victories were needed
a. First, on the battlefield (to abolish the old government)
i. October 17, 1781 – Cornwallis defeated at Yorktown
ii. September 3, 1783 America's independence officially recognized
b. Second, in forming a new government that would secure the rights and
liberties of the people
i. The Less Perfect Nation – The Articles of Confederation (1781)
a. Article 1: They style of this confederacy shall be "The United States of America."
II: Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence &
III: The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship
with each other, for their common defense, the security of their Liberties, and
their mutual and general welfare &
the Articles of Confederation
1. Congress lacked the power to levy taxes or regulate commerce
2. Each state (regardless of size) had one vote in Congress and 9 of 13
votes required to pass any measure
3. Congress lacked power to enforce measures on states
4. Main problem: the Union under the Articles of Confederation was too weak
to accomplish the goals of the Union
5. These goals include, fundamentally, the goals set forth in the Declaration: to institute a government "in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
a. Secure against foreign invasion
b. Secure against dissensions between states or internal dissensions within
c. Secure blessings that states could not secure alone
d. Defense against foreign powers
ii. Designing a More Perfect Union
the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union,
establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense,
promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves
and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United
States of America.
1. Purpose: to revise the Articles of Confederation
2. Question: How to fix the Articles (or, how to make the government more "energetic")?
3. Answer: Scrap Ôem (Madison's answer)
4. Reason: the problem is fundamental a confederation (or "firm league of friendship") cannot, by its nature, accomplish the goals of Union the states must be truly united under a national authority
5. Madison's Plan (the Virginia plan)
a. Scrap the Articles of Confederation
b. Institute a national government
c. Three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial
d. National legislature would be supreme within bounds of Constitution
e. People would directly elect at least one hour of the legislature
6. The Big Constitutional debate: national Government vs. Federal
a. State sovereignty
b. Big states vs. small states
c. Great Compromise: two houses in legislative branch – the lower
branch popularly elected based on population and equal representation of states
in the upper branch
1. New problem: how do we make a national government that is strong enough
to accomplish the goals of government without that government eventually
2. Answer: The government must (1) be given all powers necessary to
accomplish its purpose, and (2) it must be controlled through the composition
and structure of the government
1. Compare Wilson p. 16 "The chief problem faced by the Framers, as they came to be called, was that of liberty: how to devise a government strong enough to preserve order but not so strong that it would threaten liberty."
2. Hamilton, Federalist No. 32 "Éall observations founded upon the danger of usurpation ought to be referred to the composition and structure of the government, not to the nature or extent of its powers."
safeguards against tyranny in the Constitution
1. Constitution of limited powers
2. Popularly elected leaders (to keep government responsible to the people)
3. Separation of powers (including checks and balances)
a. Prevent tyranny by separating the government into three parts
(Legislative, Executive, and Judicial)
b. Based on theory of human nature: people are ambitious and seek to
increase their power
c. Each branch (containing ambitious people) will be checked by the other: "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition." (Federalist No. 51)
about a Bill of Rights?
1. Federalists: No need for Bill of Rights, since the powers of the
national government are defined by the Constitution
a. The Constitution already has some protections of rights, but it ignores
the most important
b. The powers granted in the Constitution may stretch very far (i.e. "necessary and proper")
B. Outline of the Constitution
I: The Legislature
a. Law-making power
b. House of Representatives represented by the population
c. Senate, two senators/state
II: The Presidency
a. Execute the laws, Commander in the Chief
b. President, elected by the electoral college
a. Supreme Court hold office during good behavior
IV: The States
a. Full faith and credit
b. Privileges and immunities
c. Admitting new states
V: Amendment process
VI: Constitution supreme law of the land
VII: Ratification Process