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Introduction to Constitutional Law by Mind Map: Introduction to Constitutional Law
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Introduction to Constitutional Law

Introduction: Constitutional Law is an extremely interesting area of the law. It isn't a separate discipline, like Family Law or Bankruptcy Law, but it spans across every legal arena in the United States. Although the United States Constitution was written over 200 years ago, it still governs the ways in which our courts operate, our government functions, and our laws are made. There are 51 constitutions in the United States; 50 state constitutions and the United States Constitution. State constitutions and state laws cannot conflict with the United States Constitution, because it is the “supreme law of the land.” The Founders of our country and the drafters of the US Constitution knew that times would change. They also knew that the laws would have to be relevant to the citizens of the future. As a result, they built in measures to allow the document to be changed if American citizens thought a change was needed. They gave the Supreme Court the right to interpret the laws, balanced by the legislative branch of the government’s ability to make the laws and the executive branch’s duty to enforce the laws. The result was a living document that has stood the test of time.

1765: The Quartering Act

The Quartering Act required colonists to house and feed the 10,000 British troops in America.

1777: Articles of Confederation

The Second Continental Congress also agreed that there was a need for a governmental model for America. The states were afraid to place power in a central government after the experience with Britain. The Articles of Confederation formally pledged the states to “a firm league of friendship” and a “perpetual union” created for their “common defense, the security of their liberties” and their “mutual and general welfare.” These Articles, however, were insufficient as the foundation for effective government because there was no balance of power between the states and the central government.

1775: Revolutionary War Begins

Minutemen, or colonists trained as soldiers, engaged the British Redcoats in Lexington on April 19, 1775. The Minutemen were warned that the British were coming by William Dawes, not by Paul Revere, who is usually given credit for spreading the word.

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1775: Second Continental Congress

The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1775. This delegation established the Continental Army and named George Washington as its commander. Each state was instructed by the Second Continental Congress to from a government of its own, assuming the power of independent states.

1773: Boston Tea Party

Parliament finally repealed most of the taxes and duties, except those on tea. In December of 1773, colonists disguised as Native Americans boarded three British ships in Boston Harbor and dumped the cargos of tea overboard. Parliament reacted by passing several laws in retaliation. Town meetings were restricted to one each year. The appointees to the government court were chosen by the King, rather than elected by the people. The Quartering Act was expanded. British officials accused of crimes were transported and tried in England instead of in America, where angry colonists knew first-hand what the crimes were.

1750: French Troops

French troops came from Canada to build forts and claim land.

1754: British Leaders

British leaders ordered Virginia to repel the French. George Washington led colonist soldiers. England and France were in conflict in Europe, and began to compete for colonial land that was occupied by Native Americans. French soldiers began arriving from Canada to build forts and claim land that Native Americans were defending and in which England was interested. Finally, British leaders ordered the Virginia governor to attack the French militia and repel them forcibly. George Washington led 150 colonial soldiers in a march against the French.

1755-1763: Historical Background

Two problems: Continued westward settlement by colonists; and the high cost of assisting the colonists in the French and Indian War (1755—1763). Great Britain had two significant problems. One was the continued westward settlement by colonists. The Native Americans were defending their territories from colonists, and the British army was not able to protect the colonists because the settlements were isolated. As a result of the fighting, King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763, closing the western frontier and ordering all settlers to leave. The other major problem was the high costs associated with assisting the colonists in the French and Indian War. Britain felt that the colonists should share the debt. The colonists resisted these two moves and leaders began to emerge, among them, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and Thomas Jefferson. These leaders found that they had strength in cooperating to fight the French, and so turned their efforts to resist British Parliamentary control.

1763: The Stamp Act

The Stamp Act, passed in 1763, was Britain’s way of making colonists pay part of the debt owed as a result of the French and Indian War. It required stamps to be purchased and placed on legal documents, such as marriage licenses and wills, and even required stamps be purchased for playing cards, dice, newspapers, and calendars. The Stamp Act was repealed in 1766, but other taxes were placed on commodities the colonists needed to import from England. As further dissention arose, England sent troops to enforce the demands of Parliament.

1770: Boston Massacre

As further dissention arose, England sent troops to enforce the demands of Parliament. Finally, in 1770, in what became known as the Boston Massacre, 4000 armed British troops opened fire on colonists who were throwing snowballs at them.

1774: First Continental Congress

In September of 1774, delegates from the 12 colonies met in Philadelphia to discuss the colonists’ complaints against Britain. They adopted a set of resolutions defining the rights, liberties, and immunities of the colonists and listing the actions of the British government that violated these rights. They also drew up an address to King George III and another to the citizens of Britain, enumerating American grievances and asking for a restoration of American rights.

1776: Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence, which formally severed ties with Great Britain, was drafted by the Second Continental Congress. You will be completing an assignment about the Declaration of Independence that will delve further into its making. What you will not see, however, is what signing the Declaration of Independence cost the 56 signers: 9 died during the Revolution. 5 were captured by the British. 18 had their estates burned, looted, or otherwise destroyed 1, who was a shipping investor, had all of his ships captured by the British navy. He became a pauper. 1, a supreme court judge, was dragged from his bed, imprisoned, brutally beaten, and starved. He was released in 1777, but was in poor health. He died within 5 years and his family was left to live on charity. 1, the speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, was forced to leave the side of his dying wife and hide in the forest and in caves. The British destroyed his property and ran his children off. When he returned, his wife was dead. He never saw his children again.  

1787: The Great Compromise

The Congress of the Confederation, now called the Constitutional Convention, met in 1787 to consider the revision of the Articles of Confederation.George Washington was elected to preside over the meetings, which were held in secret so that the delegates could speak and debate freely. All states except Rhode Island sent delegates. One of the problems that arose was the disagreement between the small states and the large states over representation in the new central government. The small states wanted equal representation, while the large states wanted to have representation based on their larger populations. A compromise was reached, called the Great Compromise, which each state an equal vote in the Senate, but made representation proportionate to population in the House of Representatives.

1788: Constitution Ratified

September 17,1788: The final draft of the United States Constitution, which took four months to complete, was put before the Congressional Convention and ratified by the majority of the states. The new Constitution had to be ratified by 9 states in order to take effect. Extensive debate took place in all states. The supporters of the U.S. Constitution were known as federalists, and their arguments were published as The Federalist Papers. Those who were opposed were called antifederalists. To get the necessary 9 states to vote for ratification, the federalists were forced to support amendments to the Constitution limiting the power of the central government and giving certain rights to the people. These ten amendments became known as the Bill of Rights.