The Confederation and the Constitution

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Although the states experimented with various models in writing their new constitutions, all of them included some basic principles. What were those basic principles and why were they important? •How would you explain legislative supremacy and why did most states favor it? •What ideas drawn from the natural rights philosophy were reflected in the new state constitution? Shortly after declaring independence from Great Britain, the Second Continental Congress called on each state to draw up a new constitution to protect every citizen’s individual rights and promote the common good. Between 1776 and 1780, the states adopted new constitutions, all containing the basic principles of higher law and natural rights, social contract, popular sovereignty, representation and the right to vote, legislative supremacy, and checks and balances. This was the first time that so many new governments had been created using these basic ideas, all centered around John Locke’s natural rights philosophy. Each new state constitution reflected the idea that the purpose of government is to preserve and protect the citizen’s natural rights to life, liberty, and property. This was evident in the use of the principle of higher law. A higher law sets forth the basic rights of citizens and establishes the responsibility of the government to protect those rights. It establishes limitations on how those in government may use their power with regard to the citizens’ rights and responsibilities, the distribution of resources, and the control or management of conflict. Higher law can only be changed with the consent of the citizens using well-known procedures. Neither constitutions nor government can violate this higher law. If a government deprives the people of their natural rights, then the people have the right to change or abolish that government and form a new one. Every state considered its constitution to be a fundamental, or “higher,” law, placing limits on the governmental power. In...
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