What is a Constitution?
In simple words, a constitution is a set of laws that describes how a country or a state should run.
The need for a Governing System
In America, the thirteen colonies/states that conducted the Revolutionary War needed to reach an agreement with each other to fulfill their security. On the other hand, they needed their liberation and economic systems maintained as per their wish, despite any agreement with other states. Therefore, the states needed a common governing system that would accomplish both their requirements.
Formation of the 1777 Constitution and the Confederation Government
In 1777, the representatives of each state created a constitution, and in the year after, it was approved by all 13 states. Through this constitution, they formed a confederation government, by which they placed limited powers in the central government and greater powers in the states. Two representatives from each state were selected to form a congress, which handled the administrations of the central government. These representatives carried out, the needs of their respective state, in the congress.
Failure of the Constitution
Congress was only given power in the areas of security and external affairs and every other power was exercised by the states independently. Consequently, there was no other governing body to overlook conflicts among the states and as a result, this constitution became unsuccessful.
The Constitutional Convention
To overcome the failure in the constitution of 1777, the representatives of each state gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 and conducted a convention. Some of these representatives favored a strong central government, whereas others preferred the freedom of each state. Be that as it may, they all had the identical need of national unity. After 16-long-weeks of arguments, they appointed a Constitutional Council to frame a new Constitution. The elected members in the Constitutional Council were,
- Thomas Jefferson
- George Washington
- James Madison
Formation of the 1787 Constitution and the Federal Government
The Constitutional Council agreed to maintain a united state while maintaining the liberty of each state independently. To fulfill both of these requirements, they formed a federal government through the constitution of 1787. This constitution is known as the oldest written constitution in use. The 1787 constitution consisted of only 7 articles and out of which, the first 3 focus on the powers of the three main branches of the federal government (the Legislature, the Judiciary, and the Executive). The rest of the articles are as follows,
Article IV: the relationship among the states.
Article V: the guidelines to amend the Constitution.
Article VI: the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.
Article VII: the process of ratification.
1777 vs. 1787
The difference between the 1787 constitution and the previous (1777) constitution is that the 1787 constitution describes which powers the central government and the states exercise separately, whereas the 1777 constitution failed to mention these specifically.
Amendments to the Constitution
Since 1787, this constitution has been amended 27 times in order to meet the needs of people over the years. The first ten amendments are known as “Bill of Right” and were on individual freedom of people and limitations of the power of the federal government. The other seventeen were mainly on civil rights.