MODEL ANSWERS – Lecture 1
1. What do you hope to achieve by taking this course?
“… to compare the differences between our current government and the government that the framers intended for our country”
“… to use this knowledge to impact society for the good”
“I am exploring the possibility of becoming a prosecuting attorney.”
“I feel that I can start preparing to be a lawyer”
“I feel that it is an opportunity I would never miss”
“Maybe I can even become more knowledgeable about the working of government than some politicians!”
“I hope to be able to discus and argue my positions more intelligently concerning American government.”
“In addition to wanting to learn, it is also really interesting and fun learning in your classes.”
“I would like to really understand the Constitution.”
2 & 3. Which sections of the Constitution (a) give powers to Congress, (b) restrict powers of Congress, and (c) restrict powers of States?
(a) Article I, Section 8, Article III, Section 2 and Article IV, Section 3.
(b) Article I, Section 9
(c) Article I, Section 10 and Article IV, Sections 1 and 2.”
4. Explain what you think is the single most important clause of the Constitution, and why?
“I think that the Supremacy Clause of Article VI is the most important clause in the Constitution because it binds together the Constitution and new form of government it created. … Without the Supremacy Clause, the United States would end up like it was under the Articles of Confederation. Each state would create and follow its own laws and treaties to further its own interests, while the national government would be in turmoil because the states would not abide by the laws of the national government. …”
5. What individual or civil liberties were established by the original Constitution, prior to the amendments?
“Article I, section 9, clause 2 states that ‘The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public safety may require it.” Additionally, clause 3 of the same article and section says, “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.” Trial by jury was established in Article III, section 2, clause 2, protection against being convicted of treason was established in Article III, section 3, clause 1, and the rights of citizens is described in Article IV, section 2.”
6. Quote the section of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to remove authority from the federal courts (Hint: see the Article establishing the judiciary). Draft a simple law to take away an issue of your choice from the Courts.
“‘In all cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be a Party shall, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all other cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.’” Article III, Section 2, Paragraph 2 (emphasis added). Proposed law: “From this point on, the Supreme Court and all other Federal Courts will no longer have any involvement, jurisdiction, or authority in cases involving abortion.”
Another proposed law: “take away from the courts the right to determine what is a breach of the Separation of Church and State”
Yet another proposed law: “The Supreme Court of the United States and all inferior courts established by Congress, having proven themselves to be wholly incapable of handling cases addressing or in any significant way pertaining to the First Amendment in regards to religion, shall from this date on no longer have jurisedictiokn over any of the afrementioned cases. Neither shall the Supreme Court or any inferior court established by Congress have jurisdiction over any cases addressing or in any significant way pertaining to this bill. Any judges or justices who issue opinions in violation of this law or who concur with any opinion which violates this law, shall do so at trisk of impeachment. This bill shall take effect immediately upon becoming law.”
7. The Founders thought Congress was the most important branch, but now some would say that the President or Supreme Court is more important. Your view, and why?
“Supreme Court – legislates its beliefs and is immune to voter control.”
8. Give three examples of congressional power that affects your family every month. Cite the constitutional clauses creating each of those federal powers.
“The powers enumerated to Congress include the establishment of post offices, coinage of money and collection of income taxes (Amendment XVI) that directly affect my family. Also the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights directly affect my family.”
9. The U.S. Senate is now elected by voters, rather than by state legislatures (see the 17th Amendment). How does that affect the point in Federalist No. 10? State whether you think Madison’s essay (No. 10) is still valid.
“I think Federalist No. 10 continues to be applicable to the United States today. While it may not related to the method of electing senators, Madison’s essay covered three different events that were structured in a way to prevented direct democracy. There are still two aspects of the government system that it applies to that remain. One, the method of electing presidents, which is through a combination of direct votes and the electoral college, and two, the method of passing federal laws. Only through … a majority vote in Congress can a federal law be passed.”
“The direct election of senators weakens the republican nature of the Constitution by giving more power to the people without an intermediary institution like the state governments. I still think that the Federalist No. 10 is valid; but for slightly different reasons than those Madison proposed. In my opinion, the two-party system and the size of the country inhibit factions at least as much as the republican system does. The two-party system and the uge population of the U.S. work against faction by simply overwhelming small factions and groups and forcing larger ones to moderate their positions in order to be elected.”
10. Madison did not mention the federal checks and balances in Federalist No. 10 as a protection against factions (he does mention them later in Federalist No. 51). Read about “checks and balances” in the Glossary (p. 304). Do you think checks and balances guard against factionalism? Explain.
“I think the checks and balances can do a lot to prevent faction takeover. Even if the factions gain one or even two branches of government, the other branch/branches can prevent them from taking over the entire government.”
11. What clause allows Congress go beyond powers expressly given to it by the Constitution? What power, currently retained by the States, do you think Congress should never take from them?
The clause which allows Congress to go beyond powers expressly given to it by the Constitution is in Article 1, Section 8. In this clause it says that “Congress may make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or any Department of Officer thereof.” I think that the powers retained by the States, which Congress should never take from them is the power to decide what form of punishment criminals in a certain state will receive for their offense, the power to decide the forms of education, and the power to elect their governmental officials.
12. What specific improvements would you make to the Constitution? If none, then explain why you think it is perfect. Give specific examples, including citations to specific article and section numbers.
Specific suggestions for changes included:
1. Add a clause giving every person in the U.S. a right to life from conception to natural death
2. Rewrite the Second Amendment: “The people shall have the right to keep and bear arms of any type that is of such size that it can be carried.”
3. Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment, which established the direct election of senators.
4. Amend Article III, Section 1 to restrict Justices to nine-year renewable terms, thereby making renewal unlikely unless particularly deserved, because the president and senate will have changed
5. Clarify that the Bill of Rights restricts only the federal government, not the states.
6. “I think it is fine the way it is because it dictates equal power to the main branches of government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) as well as the individual state government and the States. … The true president of our country is really the Constitution, though it ‘violated’ itself by serving more than two terms!”