What are the formal and informal methods of constitutional change?


Following the Revolutionary War and separation from England, the need for a new government was clear. A group of men, who became known as the “nation’s founders” or Founding Fathers, developed a new government based on principles and beliefs they knew through their experiences, readings, and study. The Founding Fathers had a great deal in common with each other, including property interests, education, and extensive political experience. These common experiences and birthrights created a strong consensus about what should be incorporated into the government that would replace England’s.


Troubles developed immediately upon establishment of the United States of America with the 1781 Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Economic difficulties and means of dividing power between leaders and competing interests caused conflict. The conflicts had to be resolved, and some of the Founding Fathers and others, who would come to be known as the Framers went to Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. However, it became apparent immediately that the Articles could not be revised, and therefore, they were abandoned, and the Framers set about to create a new form of government. Though the effort was eventually successful and resulted in the Constitution, there was a great deal of conflict during its development in the summer of 1787. The form of government established incorporated the ideas of diverse groups, as well as the Framers’ recognition of the need for compromise.


Research the history of the American Constitution using the Argosy University online library resources. Respond to one question from each of the question sets A and B.


A. Creating the Constitution


  • Consider the three constitutional proposals: the Virginia Plan, the New Jersey Plan, and the Great Compromise, also known as the Connecticut Compromise. If you were a delegate and without the experience of the past 200 years, which constitutional proposal would you have supported? Why?
  • Why do you think the framers were silent on the issue of slavery in the wording of the Constitution? What were the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation?
  • What were the issues in the Constitutional Convention? Who were the Federalists and Anti-Federalists?


B. Living with the Constitution


  • What are the formal and informal methods of constitutional change?
  • How do checks and balances work in the lawmaking process today? Which current and important events do you think are examples of the success of checks and balances?
  • Do you think the Constitution is a relevant political document for the twenty-first century? What new amendments might be appropriate today?
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