Homework Three Answers - Student Four
2. Other than George Washington, who do you think was the most influential Founding Father? This is a difficult question because a number of Founding Fathers were quite influential. I cannot decide between the following two. 1) Thomas Jefferson, since he mainly authored the Declaration of Independence and continued to be heavily involved in early American politics. He was a President and a foreign delegate, among other involvement. 2) Benjamin Franklin. Franklin did not do as much as many of the other Founders in politics, but I think he exemplified what would become the quintessential American character. He was a spiritual (Christian?) and educated man. He was an ingenious inventor and scientist who believed in hard work. I believe his whole legacy and character have shaped (or at least symbolize) the American character.
- Good, comprehensive answer. Note, however, that you picked two of the least Christian among the Founding Fathers, and hence the two who are promoted the most by liberals. Neither contributed much to the U.S. Constitution (Jefferson wasn't even there), and the most important provision in the Declaration of Independence was largely taken from the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
3. The Constitutional Convention: describe the "what, when, where, and how" about it. The Constitutional Convention was held in 1787 in Philadelphia. It took place in Independence Hall, the same room where the Declaration of Independence was debated. Originally convened to amend and improve the Articles of Confederation, the Convention eventually decided to start new and began writing the Constitution. This was a laborious process, taking a whole summer with 39 of 55 delegates actually signing the new document. Despite the troubles of getting the Constitution written, the Convention was well worth it because the Constitution worked far better than the Articles.
- Terrific answer with a good historical observation about using the same room as the Declaration of Independence!
4. Give an example of George Washington's leadership. Explain. Washington’s handling of the Whiskey Rebellion is an obvious but excellent example. Washington personally rode out to the meet the rebellion, which dispersed rather than actually face him. After some of the rebels were convicted of crimes, Washington pardoned them. I think the key to Washington’s leadership was this. He managed to be humble and kind, while at the same time strong and principled. It was clear that in pardoning the rebels, he was not endorsing their actions or backing away from his original position against them. Unlike modern politicians, Washington knew how to take a stand without seeming mean or “intolerant.”
- Superb analysis.
5. "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports." From where is that quote taken, and what does it mean to you? This quote is from George Washington’s Farewell Address in 1796. I understand it to mean that a society, particular its governance, will be much better off if rooted in morality and religion. I say in particular its governance because Washington said “political prosperity” which probably refers to the political and governmental aspects of the society. If the government and political climate are based on greed and power, they will not help form a good society. If the government and political climate are based on moral and religious principles, they will contribute to a good society (or preserve it).
- Excellent! May use as a model answer.
7. President John Adams was only a one-term president. Why? Adams was an influential Founding Father but a rather poor (and unlucky) president. First of all, he had to follow Washington, who was probably the most highly esteemed of the Founders, more so than Adams anyway. Second, foreign policy problems such as the XYZ affair and the naval war with France. Though Adams was not directly responsible for these, they still made him look bad (as when a bad economy is wrongly blamed on the president). Third, the Alien and Sedition Acts, and particularly the Sedition Act, ensured that he would not have the support of the Democratic-Republicans, and probably discredited him in the eyes of many. As the lecture points out Adams was from Massachusetts, the tradition of which was not exactly open and democratic. Adams seems to have been playing politics with the Sedition Act, which combined with the administration’s other problems all but ensured that Adams would not be reelected.
- Perfect answer, which addresses all of the main reasons.
8. Write about any issue related to this week's lecture. Debate: Does the United States really need an office of president? This is a very interesting question. The knee-jerk reaction would be to say that of course we need a president! But there is no reason why a president is “needed” any more than, for example, an executive committee. What is needed is some kind of executive office or power but it does need to be an individual president.
However, having a president is obviously helpful because the president symbolizes the United States in foreign policy disputes, and if we did not have a single head of state we might have less leverage in world affairs. So I think we should have an office of president for convenience but I don’t we “need” it of necessity.
- Superb analysis!
H1. Would you have been an Anti-Federalist with respect to the Constitution? Discuss. I don’t know that I could answer this. Knowing today how well the Constitution has turned out overall, I would certainly support it. But if I lived back then, I might be wary of the centralized power created by the Constitution. It must have seemed a lot like “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” to (possibly) replace the King with just a new American tyrant, i.e. the president or central government as a whole. I would probably be afraid that the Revolution would be in vain. However, between the promise of the Bill of Rights and the dismal failure of the Articles of Confederation, I think I would cautiously support the Constitution.
- Right. Most would agree, but you provide good reasons for being cautious.
H2. Do you think States have the power of "nullification" with respect to laws passed by Congress? Discuss in the context of the Alien & Sedition Acts. At the time that the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves were declared, there was no clear precedent for or against state nullification of federal law. However, it only seems logical that if a law is unconstitutional, the states don’t have to follow it. In fact, it could even be illegal for the states to follow it. So if the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional (and they seem to have been) then the states had every right to refuse the laws.
However, the question seems to me to be, who decides if a law is unconstitutional? I’m not sure states have this authority apart from the courts. States cannot just pick and choose laws and then claim nullification power. I think a law’s unconstitutionality must be fairly clear before a state nullifies it.
- Good answer, but could elaborate a bit more. Aren't states co-equal sovereigns to the federal government under our unique system of government. You ask the question of "who decides" but then don't answer you're own question! (Minus 1).
H5. Write about any issue related to this week's lecture. Debate: Was it proper for the delegates to go beyond their authority to amend the Articles of Confederation, and instead propose a new constitution? Legally speaking, it is unclear whether the delegates were actually allowed to do this. First of all, the Articles of Confederation as a whole were simply not working, and second of all, there was no prohibition on totally replacing the Articles. Since in any case a large majority of the states had to ratify the Constitution before it became law, I don’t see why replacing the Articles was wrong.
Was it “proper” is a somewhat broader question. If it was legally okay to replace the Articles (which it may have been), then certainly it was proper, since the Constitution proved far superior to the Articles. If it were not legal to replace the Articles, I would still say it proper, since ratification was required. If the states disagreed with what the Convention did, they had the right to not ratify the Constitution. But they did ratify. As long as there was still a democratic procedure by which the Convention’s new document would have to be ratified, I think it was proper for them to replace the Articles.
- Good, thorough analysis, but it seems to overlook the problem of political momentum: once the delegates replaced the Articles, the cat was out of the bag and ratification by the states was difficult to stop. Some might say it was impossible to stop. So while you're technically correct that ratification was still required, the delegates had spoken and the media was behind them, as the media would be for replacing the Constitution today if there were a new constitutional convention.
- So I think your legalistic answer could have addressed -- even if to reject -- the importance of the media and culture in the ratification process, because those elements are probably even more important today. (Minus 1).
- Grade: 88/90. Superb answers, including several possible model answers.