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    Friday, 10 March 2017

    Constitutional History of USA

    Despite some of its distinct features, American Political system developed under the strong impact of British legacy.

    According to Montesquieu
    "American legal system has its roots deeply planted in the English legal norms & institutions".

    North America between Canada and Mexico, a region of varied geography and rich natural resources was colonized chiefly by the English. Beginning in 1607, joint stock companies & private individuals established thirteen (13) colonies. Men settled there in the hope of prosperity and political and religious freedom. They had some degree of self-governing colonies. The three main regions, i.e., New England, the Middle colonies, and the Southern Colonies depended heavily on trade and resented English mercantilist restrictions.

    After Britain defeated France .in the French and India War, she tried to enforce trade laws and impose new taxes in order to pay war debts and provide for defense. The British used writs of assistance and trails without jury, which Americans protested as violations of their rights. Colonial resistance increased British as determination, and relations deteriorated steadily. The Revolutionary War broke out in 1775. The following year, i.e., 1776 the Second continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. It is to be noted that in the midst of the struggle for freedom' the word 'State' began to be used for colonies.

    After obtaining independence, different States formed their separate constitutions; quite a few adopted the old Charters as new constitutions. By the end of 1780, the Last State Massachusetts adopted its constitution. Almost all the State constitutions incorporated "Separation of Powers" and the powers of governors were curtailed. Most of the State Legislatures were bicameral while old judicial system was preserved. Fundamental rights were secured and given constitutional protection.

    The newly independent American States were at first governed by the Articles of Confederation. These provided a legislature with powers to pass certain laws. But there was no executive, so the individual States had to enforce and administer these laws. There was also no United States Courts, and cases involving the laws of the United States had to be tried in State Court.

    Although, the government created by the Articles of Confederation was weak, it was responsible for one notable achievement, i.e., the establishment of a democratic policy for dealing with new American Territory. The Government under the Articles of Confederation succeeded in solving the land problems. However, American soon realized that the Articles were inadequate.


    The Articles of Confederation was implemented in March 1781. It was, no doubt, comparatively more effective than the temporary Union formed in the struggle for freedom, but .soon its weaknesses began to be felt.

    The major reasons of its failure were its certain inherent weaknesses. The central government, under the 'Articles of Confederation' was not given as much powers necessary to put into execution 'important policy decisions. Congress had no power to impose taxes, as a result central set-up had soon to face financial crisis. The component States were required to give financial assistance but they did not fulfill their responsibilities. Whereas the Center had no power to enforce it's will and compels them to pay their due share. The Congress was also not authorized to enact laws directly for the citizens of Confederal Units under 'Articles' a full-fledged governmental structure, consisting of executive, legislature and judiciary, could not be evolved. The method of amendment of the basic documents viz., Articles, was a bit complicated. Congress was given the power to propose amendment but ratification from each State's legislature was required, which proved a very difficult task. As a result, wide spread feeling in favor of strong Center got its way. Hamilton and Madi on demanded that a convention be convened which could amend the constitution of Confederation & authorized to review the whole legal and political system. In 1786 a convention was held at annuls in which representatives of five States participated. It was decided under the leadership of Hamilton & Madison that -a general convention of all States be summoned at Philadelphia. The Congress had no option except to approve this proposal in February, 1787.

    The proposed convention was held a Philadelphia in May 1787, in which 55 representatives of 12 States, except Phode Island, participated, including such famous ones as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, etc, George Washington was unanimously elected as the President in the very first session, while other decisions were taken by majority  vote. On the fifty day, the convention adopted the resolution initiated by the governor of Virginia that sought to form a notional government. Hence, the idea to amend the "Articles of confederation" was dropped.

    Different proposal regarding the formation of a new constitution were discussed, ultimately in September 1787, the new constitution of United States of America was adopted and signed by the participants. It was decided that it would be implemented after having been ratified by nine out of thirteen States. The draft of the constitution was sent to the Congress which dispatched it for ratification to the State legislature. Nine States signed the document by 21st June, 1787 and Congress made an announcement to this effect on 4th July, 1787. New House of Representatives was elected in 1789 and after it the Senate came into being. The new President of the Republic, George Washington, took oath of office under the constitution on 30th April, 1789. Since then many changes have taken place in it, one change being the increase in the number of States from 13 in 1787 to 50 at present.


    Keeping in view that U.S constitution is the basic instrument of government and supreme law of the land. The present constitution of U.S.A. was adopted at Philadelphia convention held in 1787 and it came into force in 1789 after it had been ratified by the minimum required number by States. It is the briefest constitution of the world.
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