The following will present the historical significance of the American Constitution, along with the roles of three of the prominent Founding Fathers of America and their significance to the rights and freedoms of the American people.
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The American Constitution, one of the most prominent and pragmatic documents in the history of the United States, is the longest extant government charter written by the government. It was written in 1787, one year after America gained its official independence from the British colonies. The document consists of twenty seven amendments and seven articles which dictate the base of all American laws and policies. The Constitution can be described as the skeleton of America’s legal system, implementing the foundation of all rights and freedoms which the American people behold, which are exempt from the government’s control. The document was initially drafted by James Madison, the 4th President of the United States, and was further revised and altered by a group of men known as the Founding Fathers of America. However, the implementation of this document can be traced to the primitive example of democracy presented by the Ancient Greeks in Athens.
The Ancient Greek Precedent
The Athenian court was the first representation of traditional democracy implemented into a state following the Magna Carta’s precedent establishment of rights and freedoms. The Athenians were the first to implement juries into their legal system, in which groups of up to 6,000 men were used to settle cases. This demonstrates the first view of democracy the world has seen; the implementation of juries allowed and encouraged the participation of citizens to contribute towards their legal system. Since the United States follows the rules of a democratic republic rather than a traditional democracy, it differs from the traditional Ancient Greek democratic system. For example, the Founding Fathers implemented a system titled the Electoral College, in which the rules of a traditional democracy in which each vote counts independently do not apply. The Founding Fathers implemented this system to ensure that the voting turnout in the large state of America remains as fair as possible, to their belief. Additionally, the United States Constitution was also inspired by the democratic system of the Ancient Greeks; the Athenian Constitution, researched and recorded by Aristotle in 384-322 BCE, is the precedent to the implementation and use of constitutions within the legal systems of countries in the present.
As the 3rd official President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson had a major effect on shaping the United States as a country. Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence of 1787. Though his contributions to the American Constitution were indirect, they did affect the outcome of the document. Jefferson’s sole published book is titled Notes on the State of Virginia, which was initially published anonymously in 1785 and appeared as the first American edition in 1788. Indirectly, this document provided a simplified precedent to the official Constitution, which Jefferson's Secretary of State, James Madison, was able to evaluate. Additionally, Jefferson impacted the Constitution through James Madison, by expressing his concern for the contents of the final draft. Jefferson closely monitored the events preceding the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and expressed his frustration to Madison through a series of letters, stating that he believes that the Constitution should include the affairs of the federal government, along with the inclusion of a Bill of Rights. Following this, Madison drafted an official document titled the Bill of Rights, which was then implemented into the Constitution.
Exempt from his contributions with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison was the primary writer of the American Constitution. Madison firmly believed in the importance of a strong government and powerful leadership in the success of the country’s development. Prior to his presidency, the original document which served as a constitution was called the Articles of Confederation. The primary issue that Madison and Jefferson had with the document was its lack of federal power; this equated to a lack of military control and little power over the country’s federal debt. He first presented his ideas at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and further drafted the first copy of the document. For his achievements during his presidency, Madison was named the ‘Father of the Constitution’.
Hamilton was one of the three New York delegates present at the Constitutional Convention, where he presented his firm belief in the superiority of the British system, which he believed should be the model for the United States Constitution. With this idea, the following would have been implemented into the American system: senators and governors who would serve for life, chosen by special electors. However, most of the delegates disagreed with this idea, feeling that this would give certain individuals too much power over their territories. In the end, the delegates settled for a system of three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial), which also mimics the British system. Hamilton contributed mainly by drafting forms of government and presenting his ideas to the delegates, which resulted in a cohesive decision to implement the three governmental levels into the United States legal system.
The United States Constitution is one of the longest living documents within the country’s history. It ensures the rights and freedoms of the American people, along with the duties of the United States government. Throughout history, the Constitution has been both criticized and praised, yet its relevance to the rights and freedoms of the American people has remained intact to the present time. In the end, this document is the backbone of the United States of America, and will continue to influence the law and politics of the modern world.