Influences on the Constitution
The Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified by conventions in eleven States. It went into effect on March 4, 1789. The historical influences behind the constitution included Aristotle, the Magna Carta, the writings of John Locke, and the English Bill of Rights from 1689.
The Magna Carta was written in 1215. It was the first document to challenge the authority of the king, subjecting him to the rule of the law and protecting nobles from feudal abuse. When Englishmen went to the colonies they were given charters that guaranteed them and their heirs would “have and enjoy all liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects.” The document clearly stated that no free man could be prosecuted by any means other than the law of the land. The Magna Carta’s fundamental rights and principles included due process of law and trial by jury. Taking a cue from the document more than five centuries later, American revolutionaries incorporated many of the Magna Carta's basic ideas into another important piece of parchment – the U.S. Constitution. Another important document was the Mayflower Compact. Drawn up by the 41 adult males from the Mayflower, the new settlers from Plymouth created a contract with fair and equal laws, for the “general good”. They had traveled across the ocean on the ship Mayflower which was anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Mayflower settlers knew from previous attempts without some type of government they would fail. It allowed them to practice Protestant instead of the Church of England and other liberties without command. The Mayflower Compact was drawn up with fair and equal laws, for the general good of the settlement and with the will of the majority. The Constitution was based on the same principles of the Mayflower Compact. All men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights. Agreed to by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777 and in effect after ratification by Maryland, March 1 1781, the Articles of Confederation served as a bridge between the initial government by the Continental Congress of the Revolutionary period and the federal government provided under the Constitution for the United States in effect March 4, 1789. It was an agreement among the 13 founding states that established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states. The Articles were replaced with the US Constitution. The new Constitution provided for a much stronger national government with a chief executive (the president), courts, and a federal Congress. The Northwest Ordinance was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States passed July 13, 1787. The primary effect of the ordinance was the creation of the Northwest Territory, the first organized territory of the United States, from lands south of the Great Lakes, north and west of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River. Arguably the single most important piece of legislation passed by members of the earlier Continental Congresses other than the Declaration of Independence, it established the precedent by which the federal government would be sovereign and expand westward across North America with the admission of new states, rather than with the expansion of existing states and their established sovereignty under the Articles of Confederation. The Northwest Ordinance laid out the details of the admission process. When a territory reached 60,000 people it could create a constitution and apply for statehood. This procedure was first applied to Ohio in 1803, and served as a continuing model for the remainder of the United States. Many of the guarantees in the Constitution and Bill of Rights were anticipated by the Northwest Ordinance: Freedom of religion, Habeas corpus, the right to bail and trial by jury, no cruel and unusual punishment, right to...
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