In the foundation of the constitutional system of the new state, the creators of the Constitution put three main political and legal principles – separation of powers, federalism, and judicial constitutional supervision. Within a few years, the confederation of independent states was transformed into a federation thanks to the adoption of the Constitution of 1787. A number of different factors contributed to the formation of the classical model of federalism; however, the adoption of a Constitution was accompanied by acute debates.
Major and Minor Disagreements Between Those in Support of the New Constitution and Those Opposed
The main controversy at the Philadelphia convention was between supporters of two models, which were named “Virginia Plain” and “New Jersey Plan.” The Virginia Plan focused on creating a system of federal agencies with significant powers (Vile, 2012). The federal government was to be composed of three separate powers – legislative, executive, and judicial. State representation was made dependent on population size and state contributions to the federal budget.
The New Jersey Plan reflected the interests of small states; state rights had been proposed to be guaranteed by enabling equal representation from every state in the legislature (Kurland & Lerner, 2000). Thus, according to it, the individual states would retain greater independence. The final combined document received the name the Connecticut Compromise, which reconciled the opponents (Bailyn, 1993). It proclaimed republicanism as a principle of the constitutional structure.
The Constitution established a system of “dualistic federalism,” based on a rather clear division of the competence of the Union and its constituent states. Federalism guaranteed the subordination of the states to the decisions of the federation supreme bodies in matters of national importance and the preservation of their right of addressing problems of internal importance. The next provision was the rule of general federal law, as well as the principle of separation of powers.
The Role of Federalist Papers Help Convince a Skeptical Public to Approve the New Constitution
Hamilton, in his attempts to triumph in his home state, began publishing a series of essays under the name Federalist Papers defending and explaining the essence of the Constitution. The fact that the proposed Constitution needed to be defended on the basis of the “true principles of republican government” implied that there were also false principles of republicanism (Vile, 2012, p. 73). In essence, this debate contrasted the constitutionally hidden republicanism of the theory inherent in state constitutions and presented in the Articles of Confederation. Politically, a crucial question was at stake: what meaning of republicanism was correct in accordance with the principles for which America struggled in the revolution? (Bailyn, 1993). At the heart of this contradiction, there was the proper relationship between responsibility and republicanism.
For the Anti-Federalists, responsibility bore the original connotation of the term: the essence of republican or representative government was to be accountable to the people. The two volumes of the Federalist have completely different themes, which leads to different points of view and argumentation. The theme of the first volume was Union, which implied the establishment of a “strong” and “well-constructed” Union, as opposed to its possible disintegration into separate confederations of states (for example, Southern Confederation and Northern Confederation).
The Objections of Those Opposed to the New Constitution
The opponents of the Constitution are supposed to protect the republic from the “indiscretion of democracy,” that is, to protect the interests of the minority from the encroachments of the majority. Anti-federalists opposed the ratification of the US Constitution because it could create what could become a tyrannical central government. They claimed that Constitution stipulated too much power for Congress, at the expense of states. Moreover, they said that the unitary president resembled a king. As a result, Federalists agreed to compile a list of rights that could not be encroached by the new federal government.
In the ideological struggle of the Federalists against the Anti-federalists, the first one won. The stumbling block in this ideological confrontation was the issue of a federal executive powerful enough to overcome possible rivalry from state governors. After the adoption of the Constitution, a new line of ideological confrontation emerged between the congresses James Madison and the presidential supporter Alexander Hamilton. The discussion between Hamilton and Madison still determines, perhaps, the central question of US constitutional law about what is the nature and scope of presidential powers and how appropriate is it to single out some “inalienable core” within the presidential power?
The Impact of the Arguments For and Against the Constitution in Constitutional Arguments Today
The category of “inalienable powers” opens the “Pandora’s box” to any abuse of power. There is the question wof hat is actually “inalienable” or “inherent” to the institution of the president as such. The specificity of the “inalienability” of the executive powers of the US President is also manifested in the fact that the vagueness of this concept easily assimilates the notion of their supremacy and exclusivity.
The term “inalienable powers” of the president contains a relatively transparent hint that these powers are non-derivative of the power of Congress. From this it is concluded that, within the framework of these powers, the American president is not accountable to Congress. Such arguments, for example, can be found in the controversial Memorandum on Torture prepared by the Office of Legal Aid under the President of the United States. The history of the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government is like a constant tug-of-war (Fisher, 2014). This struggle is epitomized by the periodic alternation of periods of a strong President and a strong Congress.
Thanks to the adoption of the Constitution born in acute debates, an amorphous political entity formed during the Revolutionary War, transformed into a federation of states built on a solid legislative basis. Constitutional debates do not subside even today, which speaks about the continuous development of provisions and ongoing improvement. In this process, arguments of both Federalists and Anti-Federalists expressed more than 200 years ago, are of significant importance.
Bailyn, B. (1993). The debate on the Constitution: Part one and part two (Federalist and Antifederalist speeches, articles, and letters during the struggle over ratification). Library of America.
Fisher, L. (2014). Constitutional conflicts between Congress and the president (6th ed.) University Press of Kansas.
Kurland, P. B., & Lerner, R. (Eds.). (2000). The founders’ Constitution. University of Chicago Press.
Vile, J. R. (2012). The writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution: Practical virtue in action. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.