The public debate over the role and capacity of representative v

The public debate over the role and capacity of representative v

HS 320: The Significance of the Concept “The People”

Dr. Phillips

s.their electors figured prominently into the ultimate ratification ofthe 17th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913, whichallowed for the election of United States senators by popular vote,and not by the state legislature. The 17th amendmentpointed to an emerging aesthetic of representation that differedsignificantly from the eighteenth century liberal conceptions ofcitizenship and representative government. In keeping with thesepolitical ideals, the Constitution originally provided that the statesenators be elected by each state’s legislature (Boorstin 22). The17th amendment’s ratification rejected the Republicanrejection of sovereignty held by the people at large and tempered itwith a representative scheme that expanded the powers of the generalelectorate. Where the citizens were perceived as a body that shouldnot, the 17th amendment and its progressive supportersbelieve the “the people” who had been rejected as the proper seatof power by the formation of a more powerful national bureaucracywere now fit to wield more authority over government (Boorstin 25).Senators were more subjected to the will of the public. The paperwill examine the concept of “the people” as projected in theconstitution. The paper argues that the establishment of theconstitutions developed a national community of citizens as well asdeveloping a thick level common good for U.S as a whole.

After the Statedeclared independence and before the Article of Confederation wasenacted, the states could participate in or ignore the Congressaction without a violation of legal duties owed to other states. TheArticle of Confederation was enacted in 1781 demanding a legalcompact of Union among sovereign States that lacked legal bond(Bradford 26). Although the Congress had established authority, theArticle lacked direct control over the people, and the Congressrelied on the state to wield and enforce much of its delegate powerespecially in taxes and commerce. With the challenge that faced theUnion under the Article, a new Union compact was created in 1789 by asmall group of delegates from each state except Rhode Island. Theconclusion of the delegates’ works resulted in a proposal of aconstitution and demand the Congress forward the document to statesfor them to amend (Bradford 28). The Congress forwarded it to theStates, and the States came up with a convection do decide wether itneeded ratification. The thirteen states eventually ratified theConstitution. This made the constitution be the second legal compactof union amongst the new thirteen states. Therefore, it took theplace of Confederation’s Article as the new legal compact.

There was asignificant distinction between the Constitution and the Article ofConfederation. The Article consisted of the central organization ofthe federal government as a Congress that extensively relied on thestate to realize its power. However, the constitution developed afederal authority that had inadequate, although operational,self-governing powers over the people of each state, and thispresented the new federal authority with independent powers to enactas well as implement its own legislation. The constitution developeda federal authority among the confederating states that could freelyfunction and wield its powers. Contrarily, the article made theCongress function as a treaty institution for enabling the operationof the Confederation as well as its cooperative efforts howeverreal de facto powers was still held by the states. For instance,taxation of the citizens was a function of the states.

The concept “wethe People” in the Constitution means the people of the thirteensovereignties. According to Finnis (33), the Constitution highlightsthat the locus of sovereign authority exists in the “people” ifeach state. The term “people” means that “We” the differentpeople with different sovereign states entering into a federal unionwith one another. It doe does not consider “people” as a singlenation. Finnis (20) als stressed how the constitution always refersto the United States as a plural entity. According to Finnis (32),the state people continue to retain their personal status asdifferent identity even though their action are unified by the termsof their compact.

Since the sovereignpeople developed and established the constitution, it can beperceived as an auxiliary of the States-people. Therefore, thegovernment of the state that was developed by the Constitution shouldbe viewed as subordinate creatures of the states-people whoestablished the Constitution. Each people of the state have a truesovereignty since they can dismiss the federal government, which is atool that has been entrusted with particular allocated powers togovern the state’s citizen on specific issues. Therefore, thepeople of the state can reclaim the powers delegated to the federalgovernment through withdrawal of the constitutional compact (Carey54). As sovereign authority with autonomy to enter or not enter theconstitutional compact and due to lack of the higher unity ofauthority in the constitutional setting, the people of the state canperform their sovereign authority by dissolving the constitution’smembership in the constitutional compact.

Works Cited

Boorstin, Daniel J. The Americans: The National Experience.New York: Vintage Books, 1965.

Bradford, Melvin E. Original Intentions: On the Making andRatification of the UnitedStates Constitution. Athens,Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1993.

Carey, George W. In Defense of the Constitution. Indianapolis,Indiana: Liberty Fund, 1995.

Finnis, John. Aquinas: Moral, Political, and Legal Theory.Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1998.