Monday, September 21, 2009

Exploring the Constitution: Part 2 - Congress

Article 1

James Madison in writing about the importance of the separation of powers noted that certain powers can not be divided equally among the three branches of government. He stated that too much power in the legislature can be dangerous and to "remedy for this inconvenience is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit" (Federalist 51). Article one focuses in on this branch of the United States Government, its function, its structure, and its purpose.
section 1
The United States Government would be broken up into three distinct and seperate branches. Article on, section one of the U.S. Constitution establishes that the legislative powers of central government will be placed in the hands of the Congress of the United States which will consist of two divisions; a Senate and a House of Representatives. This seems like an obvious statement but it must be established for the states to approve such a resolution that the power of people will be in the hands of representatives from each state. In addition it is important to recognize that not all power is vested within a single body. That body is broken into two distinct groups which represent the people of the United States in different ways. The following two sections identify the exact structure and eligibility for member of each division.

section 2This section focuses mainly on the structure of the House of Representatives. The major aspects of election, eligibility, and number of representatives are identified here (elected every two years, must be at least 25 years old and a U.S. citizen for 7 years, and a census must be completed at least every 10 years to determine proportion of representatives). The section also identifies when a vacancy occurs the Executive of the State that is represented is required to issue a writs of election. The House of Representatives is also responsible for electing a Speaker of the House and has sole authority of Impeachment. The element that needs to be focused on is the middle clause that address who is and is not included in the census data for representation. The original Constitution states that only "free persons" shall be represented. It specifically excludes "Indians not taxed, and" includes "three fifths of all other Persons." Many use this section to show how the Constitution and this new United States of America did not truly mean that "all men are created equal." Let's examine the two major groups here which are Native American Indians and African slaves.

Native Americans were seen as another people, a different culture, in fact a separate nation by the people of that day. When battles or fights broke out between Indians and frontiersmen it was seen as an invasion from one nation upon another. Not specifically stating it was the Indians invading the Americans because the many times the Indians were feeling threatened by the American people in the western states. This forced them to defend their land, their territory. However if you notice the excerpt in the Constitution it states "Indians not taxed" are excluded from representation. The issue was not to say Indians were a sub-race or inferior. The intention of the this was to prevent states from inflating their population statistics and therefore gaining larger representation in the House of Representatives. If an Indian is paying taxes in the state they are a functioning member of the society and therefore contributing to the greater good. If they are not paying taxes then they are not contributing to the state and logically should not be represented.

The next portion is the issue of slavery and their representation among the states. It is very important to realize that this was a major subject of debate between Northern and Southern states. The Constitution states that 3/5 of all slaves will count apart of the census and therefore will affect apportionment of representatives in the House accordingly. This debate over counting slaves was not new to the Constitutional Convention. It actually started with the Articles of Confederation in 1783. Since the decision for the compromise was not unanimous at the time it failed. This allowed for the same debate and compromise to rear its head during the Constitution Convention. One thing that people must realize today was that it would have been impossible for the Northern leaders to stand up against slavery without losing the Union. The South would have broken away at that moment and created their own country. That threat was on the table. To maintain the United States the leaders of the North decided to allow this compromise because many of them believed that slavery was going to slowly die off without direct intervention to stop it. They were seeing this in England and other European countries and it would allow be a matter of time for the South to learn from their ways. Many people try to say that the Founding Fathers were all racist and supported the oppression of African people. This is not true. Countless journals, letters, and newspaper article indicate a peaceful existence between whites and blacks in many areas of the country. There are exceptions, there are always exceptions. Other provisions were made by the Northern leaders to block the spread and retard the growth of slavery in the United States. The rest of section two identifies the number of initial representation for the states, how vacancies are handled, and how a leader and officers are chosen and removed.

section 3
This section focus on the structure of the Senate. It identifies that all states will have two representatives each and each Senator will be provided a single vote. It states that Senators must be at least 30 years of age and citizens of the United States for nine years. It also stated here that Senators are elected by their state assemblies however this process was changed by the 17th Amendment in 1913. Also it states that the President of the Senate and the tie breaking vote will be held by the Vice President of the United States.

The key element in this section are the rules of Impeachment which are exclusive to the Senate. It states that in cases of Impeachment of the President of the United States the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is to preside. However aside from that the Chief Justice is not required. Also for an impeachment to be passed at least two thirds majority vote vote in favor. Impeachment as it states is not a criminal trial it is only the first step necessary toward a removal from office.

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