(Caution:  These notes are being provided for the sake of reference only; the actual texts, classrooom lectures, discussions, et al., are part of the material covered.  The following notes are provided to assist your preparation for the midterm, not as a study guide.)


1/16             Supremacy of Law and “ The Rights of Englishmen”



            British Influence the Greatest

                        A system largely concerned with a negative liberty, from, rather than to

                        Liberty defined as a lack of coercion, and protection from certain institutions


Liberty and Property

            Property’s Role in Protection of Liberty

                        The Lockean notion of property = self, or our basis in society

                        Property as the most important of the “ Rights of Englishmen”

                        Sir Wm. Blackstone -  Commentaries ( 1760’s ) on the British Constitution

                                                            Nature of Law – most read by American lawyers

                                                            No liberty without protection of property

            Blackstone’s 3 ways state can take property:

                                    1. Give it to state

                                    2. Eminent Domain – for the higher good, at market value

                                    3. Citizen doesn’t pay taxes

            Taxation was voluntary in 18th century England.

            There was no absolute right to buy or sell.

            Blackstone supported the right to vote if you owned property.


Evolution of Liberty.


            The monarch originally defined liberty.

            This changes with the Magna Carta – Clause 39 – Freemen cannot be detained without the

                                                                        judgment of their peers

                                    Power taken from King, and shifted to people, who defined liberty

            1689 – English Bill of Rights – a guarantee of personal rights

                                    Power shifted to legislature, or Parliament, or House of Commons

                                    This legislative supremacy was adopted by the American Founders

                                    Parliament – free speech, source of taxation, power of purse, & accountable


Lessons Learned

            Magna Carta

            British Bill of Rights                                                       ¾ of American Constitution!!!

British Constitution  (unwritten)


                        Congress meets on regular basis

                        All money bills begin in House of Representatives

                        Legislature limits power of the Executive

                        Impeachment provision

                        Habeas Corpus

All 13 State Constitutions were similar to British documents.

Patrick Henry – suggested our spirit of liberty comes from England, and is an act of recovery,

                        not of creation, or Americans’ sense of the lost “Rights of Englishmen.”

4 Lessons Learned by American Founders:

                        1. Non-ideological constitution best

                        2. Priority of law over revolution

                        3. Self-preservation of political tradition

                        4. No abstracts, as constitution should be grounded in concrete ideas



1/21   English Influences



            The Magna Carta   (1215)


                        Theme – limiting absolute power of the monarch to preserve liberty

                                       Liberty is better when diffused.

                                      established the “Rule of Law”   -  before 1215, one person rule

                         Barons forced question on King John

                                    Check on King’s power to tax

                                    Separation of church and state

                                    Trial by peers

                                    Immigration and mobility

            Petition of Rights  (1628)


Individual rights – Power in hands of the citizenry, through Parliament

                        In our Constitution & Declaration:

                                    No quartering of soldiers in homes

                                    Preserving liberty while maintaining a standing army

            English Bill of Rights  (1689)

Response to Glorious Revolution

                        More explicit and direct rights cited by citizens


Four Reasons for the Importance of Primary Documents

            1. They provide the intellectual framework for the Constitution.

            2. They are part of the Western heritage of tradition and law.

            3, The American political tradition is the fulfillment of the pleas and concerns of the

               British citizens.

            4. These documents are the mentors of the American political tradition.


Major Ideas

            John Locke at end of the 17th century – Second Treatise on Government

                        Property = Liberty                    We institute government to protect our liberty

            James Harrington – Oceana     

                        A novel concerning a fictional commonwealth – political power = property

            Coke and Blackstone – Theorists who believed the “Rule of Law” as basis for politics


1/23 Colonial Government. Governors, and the Revolution


Colonial Government

            The experience of being British citizens was influential to American political thought.

 We aren’t unique!

            Is anything really American?

            Constitution – a quest for ordered liberty

            Inheritances (or lessons learned) from Britain

                        1.Notion of representation – especially Senate, an aristocratic body vested in the

                                                                   interests of society

                        2.Checks and balances – a European and British tradition

                                    Aristotle – polity

                                    Montesquieu – Separation of powers (problem – Prime Minister)

                        3.Natural Law – government’s purpose to defend

                        4.Independent Judiciary – arbiter between people and government

                        5.Federalism – political power must be diffused


Colonial Governors         A principal officer of each colony who was appointed by the King

                        1.Royal – from King

                        2.Proprietary – proprietor appointed by King

                        3.Charter – elected (PA,CT)

            All 13 Colonial Governors had veto power!

            Results in the minds of colonists:

                        Dislike of executive power

                        Legislative Supremacy


Sources of Ideas

            Natural Law – certain principles of law inherent in nature

                        Plato’s Republic – absolute justice

                        Stoics – harmony of man’s institutions and nature

            Sovereignty should rest  with the citizenry



            Britain viewed colonists in commercial terms.

            1750’s – cooperation breaks down as control is centralized

            Albany Plan – Benjamin Franklin’s scheme for government, which no one adopted

            British reform program becomes more dramatic


1/26  Towards the Revolution



            Colonists had the idea that God had set America aside.

            Roger Williams – Baptist – notion of freedom of conscience

            George Washington – Anglican  (deacon)

                        Thanksgiving Proclamation/ Letters to 3 churches

                                    Endorsement of religious freedom & diversity

                                    “Letter to Hebrew Congregation in Newport” very influential

Revolution – Why?

Social – Cultural split & class conflict – elite sided with Great Britain

Political – crisis developed over British reform program after 7 Year War

                        Grenville’s Reforms – all 3 were strictly enforced!

                        Proclamation of 1763 – closes frontier

                        Sugar Act – “power to tax” an awesome power

                        Stamp Act

            James Otis spoke against these acts in defense of the colonists.

            Stamp Act Congress – Colonists (Dickinson) adopted resolutions

                                                against these measures/ repealed Stamp Act

            Townsend Acts/ Intolerable Acts – even more repression


1/28  Theory of Revolution

Philosophy of Revolution in the Air

John Locke – right of rebellion to correct the abuse of rights


            John Adams – “Independence a hobgoblin…”

                        Braintree Instructions – opposition to Stamp Act

                                    English institutions aren’t working

                                    Property is protected


            Ben Franklin – as early as 1754

            James Otis – Bostonian lawyer – “MA. Committee of Correspondence”

Rights of British Colonies Asserted and Approved

                                    attacks Stamp and Townsend Acts

                                    cites Magna Carta/ Legislation can’t be arbitrary

                                    King no longer sovereign

            John Dickinson – PA – signed Declaration & eventually, Constitution

                                    Unlike Otis, argues not revolution, but legal remedies,

                                    or “Right of Petition.”

            Alexander Hamilton – A Full Vindication – very dramatic

                                    Parliament’s actions against “Law of Nature”

*Pamphleteers left the natural rights appeal as the last resort*

*British side – many wrote sermons (ex. – John Wesley)


4 Basic Reasons for Revolution

            1.Theory of Representation

            2.Authority of Parliament

            3.King is too Powerful

            4.Natural Law


Tories/ Loyalists took Great Britain’s side


            Johnathon Boucher – Anglican clergyman who preached against pamphlets

            Samuel Seaberry – A View of the Controversy  - King & Parliament legitimate

Other Texts

            Resolutions of the Virginia House of Burgesses (Virginia Legislature)

                        Colonists entitled to freedom

            Declarations of Stamp Act Congress

                        “Rights of Englishmen”


1/30  Declaration


Great statement of American political principle

            First draft by Jefferson – committee made changes to actual document

            Doesn’t set up a structure for government

            A defense of Natural Law, higher than the English legal system


Purpose in Writing

            Not revolution, but to discover what was lost

            To state what the colonists were thinking



            2 paragraphs of eloquent English prose

            List of grievances against the King

            Ultimate complaint – tyranny of the King, a metaphor for all that was

                        bad, an easier target than Parliament

                        standing army


                        mock trials        approx. 65 grievances

                        no trade

                        took away charters

                        repressed legislature

                        stopped judicial process




            Santayana   “ A salad of illusions”

Or, an important political statement???



2/2 Primary Texts


Discourse at the Dedication of the Tree of Liberty

            A sermon by Silas Downer, aiming for reform, not revolution

            Issue of control & power – liberty comes from God


Letters from a Farmer in PA   -  John Dickinson used a pseudonym

            Talks of maternal power & responsibility

            Uses the term “humane”


Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress

            2 years before Declaration – speaks of life, liberty, & property

            A list of “antecedent rights” – those that come before liberty


Virginia Bill of Rights  -  foreshadowed the Declaration of Independence

            A powerful statement of political principle

            Power rests with the citizenry – consent of the governed


                        Free elections

                        Trial by jury of 12

                        Freedom of religion

                        Freedom of press

                        No excessive bail


On Civil Liberty, Obedience, and Non-Resistance – Jonathan Boucher (Tory)

            Liberty is spiritual/ Obedience to state

            To overthrow state is to overthrow God, a heresy

            Ordinances of state are ordinances of God


Common Sense   -  Thomas Paine

            Which is first – society or government???

                        Society has superior claim, & can reform government

                        Power too concentrated – checks & balances at all levels needed





Thoughts on Government  - John Adams

            Separation of Powers – to prevent tyranny

            Division of power, & limitations on power

            Tone – “Lamp of Experience”

                        American republic does not stand on its own, but previous ideas

            An empire of laws, not of men, based on virtue, not fear

                        Virtue = happiness, which comes from self-restraint!


Declaration of Independence (more notes)

            Language – much the same as in previous texts – a composite

Maier calls a “workaday document,” of the 2nd Continental Congress

            It has taken on more significance over the years

            What is this significance?

                        Unambiguous, it dissolves political bands

                        It allows for a diffusion of power

            Notion of politics

                        “Consent of the governed”

                        Government dependent of the deliberation of individuals


2/6     Articles of Confederation



            Richard Henry Lee introduced resolution in June of ‘76

            J. Dickinson chaired committee

            July ’77 - presented to states for ratification  (each had 1 vote)


6 Major Powers Given to Continental Congress by the Articles

1.War & Peace

            2.Power to send/receive ambassadors

            3.Power to make treaties/alliances

            4.Power to coin money

            5.Right to regulate Indian affairs

            6.Establish a post office


Powers NOT Given

            1.Power to regulate commerce

            2.Power to levy taxes


*The Confederation could request money & troops from the states*

Executive          incredibly weak, actually a committee

                        The president of the Continental Congress was presiding officer (1 yr.)

Judiciary           given only 4 jurisdictions, or rights to hear a case

            1.Interstate disputes

            2.Private land disputes over borders

            3,Cases related to piracy

            4.Courts of capture (enemy ships)

*From 1781-89 there were 16 interstate controversies*


What Makes it into the Constitution

            1.Extradition of fugitives

            2.Full faith & credit

            3.Citizens of states have equal liberties

            4.Congressional immunity (lawsuits)


Weaknesses of the Articles

            1.National government had no power to tax

            2.National government couldn’t regulate commerce

            3.National government dependent on states, who were essentially agents

            4.National government had little judicial power


Positives of the Articles

                        1.We won the War!!!!!!!!!!!

                        2.Recognized a national diffusion of power

                        3.Utilized “consent of the governed”


            4 Failures

                        1.Failure to protect western interests

                        2.Inability to negotiate trade

                        3.Contienetal Congress couldn’t force states to give Tory property back

                        4.Significant economic battles between the states


2/9  Constitutional Convention


            May 7, 1787 – meeting called in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation

            States invited to send delegates, (all do except RI)  Patrick Henry refuses to attend

            Leading the reform efforts were those involved in the war (Hamilton, Washington)


Virginia Plan     Large state plan   -  Federal Supremacy/ Strong national government

            The first systematic plan to revise the Articles

            Author – James Madison                      Introduced by  Edmund Randolph

Bicameral legislature based on population

            Senate elected by House

            State veto provision

            Privy council – Executive with a judicial council


New Jersey Plan    Small state plan - for less change/ revision of Articles


            Author – William Patterson

            Unicameral legislature based on quota system

            Congress given power to tax

            Legislature chooses executive and judicial / multiple executives


Hamilton Plan               Life executive – made VA Plan look moderate!


2/11 Constitutional Convention


Constitution a 2 Part Process

            Constitutional Convention – May, 1787 – Sept., 1787

            Ratification Process in the states – 1787 -1789

Misc. notes


            No more than 11 states were present at the convention at one time.

            74 delegates were elected, and 55 actually attended.

            12 men did the real work.

Federalists        want reform/ the majority, and the most organized (Publius – Hamilton, Madison, Jay – 85)

            James Wilson – PA – most important legal mind/ author/ teacher/ Christian

            Benjamin Franklin – PA – 82, and oldest delegate/ advocate of compromise

            Oliver Ellsworth – CT – a moderate, who believed in blending state & national govternments.

            George Washington – VA – not a philosopher, but favored strong national government/ General

            Alexander Hamilton – NY – businessman who favored vast commercial power/ GW’s aide de camp

            James Madison – VA – Secretary of CC and one of Publius


Anti-Federalists            against reform, believed constitution abrogated American liberty (Bill of Rights)

            Luther Martin – MD – Catholic, leaves before convention is over

            George Mason – VA – very rich/ later a governor

            Patrick Henry – VA – refused to attend

            Robert Gates & Lansing – NY – outvoted Hamilton (1 vote per state)

            Roger Sherman – CT – author of the “Great Compromise”


Big Issue                      Representation              Electoral College & Supreme Court came much later!


Text of the Constitution

            Art. I    Legislative Supremacy 

House – large state/ 2 yr. term - 25 years old -  Money bills/ impeachment

                        Senate – small state/ 6 yr. term - 30 years old - Treaties/ removal/ “advice & consent”

Art. II               Executive - 35 - no term limits

            Art. III             Judiciary – Courts not defined – only 350 words!

            Art. IV             Full Faith & Credit – states

            Art. V              Amendment Process

            Art. VI             Constitution Supreme Law of the Land

            VII                   Ratification – 9 out of 12


2/13  The Federalist


Most coherent defense of the Constitution

            85 essays published as individual newspaper articles

                        Publius – pseudonym, Jay, Madison, Hamilton

                        Newspapers read by a literate few in the 18th century


                        Against notion of the Bill of Rights

                        3 different viewpoints – a split personality

                        Publius on liberty

                        Publius on the judiciary ( #78 the least dangerous branch)


Essays, Authors, Major Themes

#1        Hamilton           Reflection & Choice v. Accident & Force

                                    America as an empire of the future – economic & political

                                    Constitution as a court to the people

#2        Jay                   America as 1 country

                                    Different notions of the Union

                                    National defense dictates strong national govt.

#3        Jay                   Union as best defense

                                    Best men to serve (Plato’s theory of statesmanship)

                                    “Strawman” – 13 states v. national government inconsistent

                                                            with the Articles (chaos v. order)




#4        Jay                   A strong union discourages war “But whatever may be our situation, whether firmly

                                    united under one government, or split into a number of confederacies, certain it is,  

                        foreign nations will know and view it exactly as it is, and they will act towards us


#5        Jay                   Division of Great Britain caused conflict

                                    Intrinsic weaknesses, & warning to avoid

                                     States would be jealous of each other

#6        Hamilton           Problem of factions/ separate states with their own interests

                                    Man as ambitious, vindictive, & rapacious

                                    Passions affect conduct more than justice

                                    Advantage of a commercial republic (overacts to NC & NH)

#7        Hamilton           “Dismemberment of the confederacy not an issue”

                                    Without central govt. we would become entangled in European politics/war

                                    Territorial disputes/ Importance of property

#8        Hamilton           “Fish Theory” – Bigger states overtake smaller states

                                    “Safety from external dangers is the most powerful director of national conduct.”

                                    To keep status of a state one must unite!

                                    Disunion means war

#9        Hamilton           A great essay in modern political thought

“Science of Politics has received great improvements”

Perfecting representative government – “enlargement of the orbit.”

Confederation v. consolidation

AFs misunderstand Montesquieu, a great source for the Founders – “Celebrated” 




#10      Madison           Definition of a faction – A number of citizens (majority or minority) united by

                                    a common impulse adverse to the rights of other citizens (summarized)

                                    Control factions by:   Removing causes         Controlling effects

                                    One on side – reason/opinion                the other – self-love/passion

                                    Cure for factions – “Extended Republic Theory”

                                                Create new states

                                                Possibility of better leadership

                                    #11      Hamilton           National power = Economic success

                                    Strong navy needed to provide safety ( pirates, etc.)

#12      Hamilton           Commerce encourages the payment of taxes

                                    One unified government can tax imports more effectively

#13      Hamilton           Union better than 3 or 4 confederacies

#14      Madison           Pure political theory (like 10) “A republic may be extended over a large regime”

                                    Limits of democracy/ republic

                                    Federal government limited to essential power

#15      Hamilton           Problems of Articles – “last stage of national humiliation”

                                    “Perilous situation”

#16      Hamilton           Confederacies “parent of anarchy”

                                    Large states can’t be tames, & small states have no voice

#17      Hamilton           National government will never exceed its power!



#18      Madison           Uniformity of the law didn’t help in ancient Greece – lack of union

                                    Larger states will tyrannize the small

                                    Theme of national security, on which Publius agreed

#23      Hamilton           “Energy” in government – various forms of power necessary as means to

                                    justify an end

                                    Power needed to manage foreign relations, commerce, & defense

#25      Hamilton           National army more efficient than state militias

                                    It can do what state militias cannot

                                    “Standing Army” responds to national problems

#32      Hamilton           Necessary and Proper Clause defense – national government given the power to

                                    make laws that are necessary and proper  (Article I, Section 8)


#52      Madison           House of Reps – government should have a “common interest with the people”

                                    Basis of unification

                                    Qualifications – 2yrs. of age, resident 7 yrs.,      2 yr. terms

                                    More frequent elections & more representative of people – more powerful

                                    Comparison to House of Commons

#53      Madison           Defense of 2 yr. terms – experience needed/ travel time required

                                    Knowledge of foreign relations & commerce

                                    Antifederalist argument – “That where annual elections end, tyranny begins”

                                    Continuity in government

#56      Madison           AF argument refutes House as too small

                                    Publius says knowledge (commerce, taxation, militia) possessed by intelligent few

                                    Too many points of view a problem

                                    1 per 30,000 necessary

#62      Madison           Senate a check on House/ small states check on large states

                                    Qualifications – 30 yrs. of age, resident 9 yrs.  6 yr. terms

`                                   As a body, not corruptible – filtered by indirect election by state legislators

#63      Madison           Defense of 6 yr. Senate terms – permanency

                                    An acquired knowledge of national affairs




#65      Hamilton           Impeachment

                                                A check on Executive

                                                Assertion of the “consent of the governed”

                                                President & Supreme Court Judges

                                                Impeachment – a list of offenses - begins in the House Judiciary

                                                Removal – Trial is in the Senate, with the Chief Justice presiding

                                                            Senate is best, as it is less biased than the House & more removed

                                                Supreme Court not adequate, as they are not elected

#69      Hamilton           Veto power 

A check on the Legislative branch

                                                Protection against factions in House & Senate

                                                Keeps the Executive from becoming a puppet of the legislature

                                                Threat of a call to session very important

#70      Hamilton           Energy in Government – It is unity, duration, & power!

                                    No plural executives/ Refutes privy council

                                                Affects executive’s energy

                                                Dissent prevents decision-making ability

#71      Hamilton           Duration in office – personal fitness & stability

                                    Theory of statesmanship

                                    Human nature

                                    Separation of powers

#73      Hamilton           Adequate provision for support of the Constitution

                                    The threat of a veto is the more dangerous than the actual veto

#78      Hamilton           Judiciary Independence

                                                “least dangerous branch”                       “weakest”

                                    Courts are intermediaries between citizenry and government

                                    Judicial review – court will come to interpret the Constitution in future years

#80      Hamilton           Trial by Jury

#84      Hamilton           Bill of Rights – saves his somewhat half-hearted argument for the end

                                    Publius believes that the Constitution itself is already a Bill of Rights!