Constitutional Principles
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Constitutional Principles

October 23, 2019

Welcome back, Government students! In Unit 1 you learned about the foundations of American government. Where we came from and how we got started here in the United States. You also learned about our first real attempt at forming a government to unify the colonies— The Articles of Confederation… As you remember, that was a terrible failure. So now we have a brand new nation with a failing government and an outlook that seemed bleak. The Founding Fathers were in desperate need of a constitution—or established principles—to guide our nation and maintain order. It needed to unify the states and establish justice, maintain safety across the nation, provide for the defense of all of the states within the union, and secure the freedoms of Americans everywhere. Forming a plan that tackled all of these tasks AND was agreed upon by everyone was so small feat. When our Founding Fathers began writing the Constitution, they had a few goals in mind. We’ll call these our Constitutional principles. There are SEVEN that we are going to focus on, and the the first is Popular Sovereignty, the idea that government is created by and subject to, the will of the people. This means that our Founding Fathers valued the idea that the people provide the government with power. If the people are dissatisfied with the government, the people can take that power away. The second ideal is limited government. This means that this new document, this Constitution, would keep the government in check, restricting it’s power and ensuring that the rights and liberties of the people are not violated. The government is limited by the Constitution and other laws. The third principle is the rule of law. This means that every member of society, including those in charge of the government must obey the law. This means that no one, whether it be the President, a professional athlete, or an everyday average Joe, is above the law. The rules apply to everyone. The fourth principle is the separation of powers. This means that power is distributed among the three branches. Each branch has specific fields of authority—specific things they can do and unique responsibilities. Each branch has a different job and that job is (for the most part) spelled out in the constitution. The fifth principle is checks and balances. This is the system for controlling government power and where each of the branches has the ability to restrain certain actions of the other branches. Later on in class I’ll explain how it’s almost as if the three branches are playing a giant game of rock, paper, scissors to keep each other in check. The sixth principle is judicial review. This means that the courts have the power to determine if the actions of the legislative and executive branches of government are constitutional. Basically, courts are like referees in a football game. The know the rules inside out and must make sure that both teams (the President and Congress on the federal level) are obeying the rules. The seventh principle we’ll discuss is federalism. We’ll get into a lot more detail on this later in the unit, but federalism is the system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and smaller units. For us, this is the division of powers between the national government and the states. These principles keep our nation together, keep power balanced among the central government and the states, ensure that no one person or group of people are above the law, and help maintain order throughout this nation. The beauty of the Constitution is that it can be changed as time progresses, which we’ll talk about in class very soon But one thing remains: these principles will endure the test of time. That’s it for today, guys! Make sure you answer all the questions and I’ll see you tomorrow!

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