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The Objectives of
Our National Government as found in the Preamble of the Constitution
We the people of the
The Objectives of Our National Government: Preamble of the Constitution
thority can do many things better than they themselves can, working separately. For this reason it is often called a dual (or double) system of government.
By far the greater part of the Constitution is taken up with regulations about the organization of the National Government. It gives a long list of the subjects on which the legislative, or lawmaking, branch can make laws. It tells how officials shall be chosen and how laws shall be passed. It describes the duties of the President and the powers of the Supreme Court and other Federal courts. While it does not contain rules for the organization of the State governments-because 13 of them were already doing their work before the Constitution was adopted-it reserves to the States many powers which are not delegated to the National Government and in that way clearly shows what duties the State governments will be expected to do.
4. The Constitution provides for contacts with other groups. For a Federal system it is necessary that the Constitution should set up well-understood relationships between the central government and the State governments. We have just spoken of the powers delegated to the National Government and those reserved to the States. sides these, there are certain powers which are shared by both National and State governments and are known as concurrent powers. Please turn to Figure 16, as it will help you to understand these somewhat complicated relationships.
The Constitution also provides for contacts between our Nation and foreign countries, by giving the President power to appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and to receive ambassadors and other public ministers from foreign countries.
It also explains the relationship which should exist between the several branches of the National Government.
5. The Constitution was built upon certain important principles and standards. We shall study very carefully the basic principles of the Constitution (and its Amendments) in chapter 10 and in the last two chapters of this
book. Many of these basic principles seem to have been in the minds of the Fathers of the Constitution as they made their plans at Philadelphia, but were not put into the Constitution when they adopted it, because the delegates were trying to set up a central government which would satisfy the people, rather than to declare general principles. This caused a great deal of questioning in some States, as we have seen-in Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York, for example. These States only ratified the Constitution on the understanding that a Bill of Rights, declaring many general principles of freedom and justice, would be acted upon promptly by the new Senate and House of Representatives and would be submitted to the States for ratification as Amendments to the Constitution. Such a Bill of Rights was adopted by the Congress in its first year, 1789, and was agreed to by the States in the form of 10 amendments before the end of 1791. We will study the principles of the Bill of Rights in the next chapter. Now it will be interesting to make a list of a few of the basic principles of the Constitution as it was at first adopted.
STANDARDS OF GOVERNMENT
First of all, the Constitutional Convention decided that three branches of Government-that which makes the laws (the Legislative), that which operates the Government and puts the laws into effect (the Executive), and that which explains the laws and settles all sorts of disagreements on legal questions (the Judiciary)-should each represent the people separately and have limited powers, largely independent of each other except for certain "checks and balances." Secondly, it decided that all men should be equal in their right to the protection of the laws. Thirdly, it decided that all the States should be equal, that no State should receive special favors from the National Government, and that each State must recognize and respect the laws of all other States. Fourthly, it decided that every State should be guaranteed a republican form of government, with the final authority belonging to the people them
selves, and with the powers of government delegated by the people to elected representatives. Fifthly, it decided that the people should always have the right to change their Constitution by the carefully considered action of their representatives in the Congress, if approved by three-fourths of the States. And sixthly, it decided that the Constitution, laws properly made by the Congress, and treaties agreed to by the President and the Senate were to be the highest law of the land-higher than the laws of any State or the orders of any public official. (See Figure 17.)
THINGS TO DO
Questions to discuss in your study group:
1. At the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia there were all sorts of delegates present. These 55 men came from different kinds of homes and daily work; they came from different parts of the country; they felt separate loyalties to their home States.
Yet, somehow among all these differences these leaders sat down and found things on which they could agree. No one of them received everything he had hoped for, but almost everyone received something he had wanted in the new form of government. In the end they agreed upon a constitutional system of government for the new Nation. Why do you think that they agreed?
Can you find in your own life examples which show how several groups of persons have overcome difficulties for the sake of some larger purpose? Does this sort of compromise happen around us every day? Among businessmen? Among farmers? Among laborers? Why do citizens of our country have to learn to compromise in their daily contacts and lives?
2. The authority in the Constitutional Convention did not belong to one man alone. It was in a number of great leaders. Can you name some well-known group in your daily life in which the authority belongs to a number of persons? Perhaps, in which it is delegated to a commit