Citizenship and the Constitution
Citizenship and the Constitution
What Does Citizenship Mean?
A series of documents declaring U.S. citizenship are shown.For many, American citizenship is a birthright, something they never think twice about. For others, it is a struggle and a process to even arrive on American shores, let alone become an American citizen. American citizenship affords many rights and privileges not found elsewhere in the world. However, for former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, American citizenship also carries a number of responsibilities. Eisenhower once stated: “Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.”
How does this ideal of citizen involvement recall the American Revolution and echo the values of democracy? Do you agree with Eisenhower’s statement? Why or why not? What does American citizenship mean to you?
In this lesson, you will apply your knowledge of American government and the founding documents to American citizenship, duties, and responsibilities by constructing a well-crafted essay.
In this lesson, you will construct a five-paragraph essay explaining how the Constitution and its European influences support the modern concept of American citizenship and citizens’ rights and responsibilities. This essay will demonstrate your understanding of the origins of American government and democracy. In the process, you will be able to use primary sources to support your ideas from the documents discussed in previous lessons.
Be sure to cite evidence from the Constitution and at least two of the following: John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, the English Bill of Rights, Baron de Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract. A third influential document may be selected for comparison from primary sources studied throughout this unit. Writing this essay is an opportunity for you to synthesize your knowledge of American government, the origins of democracy, and the importance of the people in the principle of popular sovereignty.
Introduction – Compose a general introduction about the concept of American citizenship and democracy.
Thesis Statement – Write a thesis statement to respond to the general question: what constitutional principles and/or influential founding documents support the creation of the U.S Constitution?
Constitutional Principle #1 – Introduce Constitutional Principle #1 and its original source. Explain the outlined principle rights and responsibilities guaranteed to citizens.
Influential Document #1 – Cite the document’s title and author. Explain the historical significance of the document and how its ideas appear in the Constitution.
Supporting Quotes or Ideas from Influential Document#1 – Choose 1–2 quotes from this document and the Constitution to support your ideas.
Constitutional Principle #2 – Introduce Constitutional Principle #2 and its original source. Explain the outlined principle rights and responsibilities guaranteed to citizens.
Influential Document #2 – Cite the document’s title and author. Explain the historical significance of the document and how its ideas appear in the Constitution.
Supporting Quotes or Ideas from Influential Document#2 – Choose 1–2 quotes from this document and the Constitution to support your ideas.
Constitutional Principle #3 – Introduce Constitutional Principle #3 and its original source. Explain the outlined principle rights and responsibilities guaranteed to citizens.
Influential Document #3 – Cite the document’s title and author. Explain the historical significance of the document and how its ideas appear in the Constitution.
Supporting Quotes or Ideas from Influential Document#3 – Choose 1–2 quotes from this document and the Constitution to support your ideas.
Conclusion – Revisit the main ideas expressed in each paragraph. Explain why you chose these three sources to explain your point. Paraphrase and explain your thesis statement again.
The sources to help you write your essay are listed here. Use your notes to review the main points in each before you begin. Consider carefully which documents will best support your positions on citizenship and the Constitution.
English Bill of Rights
When the Catholic king, James II, was forced from the English throne in 1688, Parliament offered the crown to his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange. Parliament, however, insisted that William and Mary submit to a bill of rights. This document sums up the powers that Parliament had been seeking since the Petition of Right in 1628.
Whereas, the late King James II . . . did endeavor to subvert and exirpate [eliminate] the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom . . . and whereas the said late king James II having abdicated the government, and the throne being vacant. . . . The said Lords [Parliament] . . . being now assembled in a full and free representative [body] of this nation . . . do in the first place . . . declare
That the pretended [untruthfully claimed] power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal;
That the pretended power of dispensing with laws or the execution of laws by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal; . . .
That levying [collecting] money for or to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative [a right exclusive to a king or queen], without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal;
That it is the right of the subjects to petition [make a request of] the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;
That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;
That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;
That election of members of Parliament ought to be free;
That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached [discredited] or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;
That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;
That jurors ought to be duly [done at a proper time] impaneled [registered on a panel of jurors] and returned [released from service], and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders [property owners with unconditional rights];
That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void;
And that for redress [correction] of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.
The Spirit of Laws: Baron de Montesquieu
In 1748, the French aristocrat Baron de Montesquieu (1689–1755) wrote The Spirit of Laws, in which he concluded that the separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial powers was in the best interests of the people. Both the French revolutionary thinkers and the Framers of the U.S. Constitution were influenced by Montesquieu’s ideas.
The principle of democracy is corrupted not only when the spirit of equality is extinct, but likewise when they fall into a spirit of extreme equality, and when each citizen would fain be [be satisfied] upon a level with those whom he has chosen to command him. Then the people, incapable of bearing the very power they have delegated, want to manage everything themselves, to debate for the senate, to execute for the magistrate [judicial officer of limited authority], and to decide for the judges.
When this is the case, virtue can no longer subsist [survive] in the republic. The people are desirous of exercising the functions of the magistrates, who cease to be revered. . . .
Democracy has, therefore, two excesses to avoid — the spirit of inequality, which leads to aristocracy or monarchy, and the spirit of extreme equality, which leads to despotic [authoritarian; tyrannical] power, as the latter is completed by conquest. . . .
In the state of nature, indeed, all men are born equal, but they cannot continue in this equality. Society makes them lose it, and they recover it only by the protection of the laws.
Such is the difference between a well-regulated democracy and one that is not so, that in the former men are equal only as citizens, but in the latter they are equal also as magistrates, as senators, as judges, as fathers, as husbands, or as masters.
The natural place of virtue is near to liberty; but it is not nearer to excessive liberty than to servitude. . . .
Democratic and aristocratic states are not in their own nature free. Political liberty is to be found only in moderate governments; and even in these it is not always found. It is there only when there is no abuse of power. . . .
To prevent this abuse, it is necessary from the very nature of things that power should be a check to power. A government may be so constituted, as no man shall be compelled to do things to which the law does not oblige him, nor forced to abstain from things which the law permits. . . .
When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner. . . .
Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.
There would be an end of everything, were the same man or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals.
The Social Contract: Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) was one of the leaders of the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment. Enlightenment philosophers, inspired by the scientific advances made by Isaac Newton and others, tried to explain various aspects of human existence based on logic and reason.
In The Social Contract (1762), Rousseau states that early people living in a state of nature were free, in the sense that they could do whatever they wanted. Of course, they were also at the mercy of other people who were doing whatever they wanted.
In forming or joining a society, Rousseau says, each person enters into an implicit contract. A social contract exists between each person and the group of all people. The individual gives up some of his or her freedom in exchange for the protection and benefits offered by the group.
Rousseau referred to this group of people, acting as one for the benefit of all, as the “body politic,” or the “Sovereign.” It is this Sovereign that establishes the government.
What we have just said confirms . . . that the depositaries of [people who are entrusted with] the executive power are not the people’s masters, but its officers; that it can set them up and pull them down when it likes; that for them there is no question of contract, but of obedience and that in taking charge of the functions the State imposes on them they are doing no more than fulfilling their duty as citizens, without having the remotest right to argue about the conditions. . . .
It is true that … the established government should never be touched except when it comes to be incompatible with the public good; but the circumspection [careful thought and judgment] this involves is a maxim [general truth or rule of conduct] of policy and not a rule of right, and the State is no more bound to leave civil authority in the hands of its rulers than military authority in the hands of its generals. . . .
The periodical assemblies of which I have already spoken are designed to prevent or postpone this calamity, above all when they need no formal summoning; for in that case, the prince cannot stop them without openly declaring himself a law-breaker and an enemy of the State.
The opening of these assemblies, whose sole object is the maintenance of the social treaty, should always take the form of putting two propositions that may not be suppressed, which should be voted on separately.
The first is: “Does it please the Sovereign to preserve the present form of government?”
The second is: “Does it please the people to leave its administration in the hands of those who are actually [currently] in charge of it?”
Two Treatises of Government: John Locke
English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) published Two Treatises of Government in 1690. Locke believed that all people had the same natural rights of life, liberty, and property. In this essay, Locke states that the primary purpose of government is to protect these natural rights. He also states that governments hold their power only with the consent of the people. Locke’s ideas greatly influenced revolutions in America and France.
But though men, when they enter into society give up the equality, liberty, and executive power they had in the state of Nature into the hands of society . . . the power of the society or legislative constituted by them can never be supposed to extend farther than the common good. . . . Whoever has the legislative or supreme power of any commonwealth, is bound to govern by established standing laws, promulgated [published or made known] and known to the people, and not by extemporary [without any preparation] decrees, by indifferent and upright judges, who are to decide controversies by those laws; and to employ the force of the community at home only in the execution of such laws, or abroad to prevent or redress foreign injuries and secure the community from inroads [advances at the expense of someone] and invasion. And all this to be directed to no other end but the peace, safety, and public good of the people. . . .
The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property; and the end while they choose and authorize a legislative is that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards and fences to the properties of all the society, . . .
Whensoever, therefore, the legislative [power] shall transgress [go beyond; break] this fundamental rule of society, and either by ambition, fear, folly, or corruption, endeavor to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people, by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves [passes] to the people; who have a right to resume their original liberty, and by the establishment of a new legislative (such as they shall think fit), provide for their own safety and security .
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