(L60) The Constitution, State Power & Nullification

1.) What is the idea of a “living Constitution”? In what way could it be argued that the American Revolution was a war against a “living Constitution”?

The idea of a “living, breathing Constitution” supports that the law of the Constitution must be interpreted (and changed by Judges) to suit current times. The American Revolution was a war against a “living Constitution” because the colonists were arguing that government action violating longstanding (unwritten) traditions was unconstitutional. Changing the Constitution to suit the times is a gross perversion of its original intent.

2.) What is nullification? Discuss one example from U.S. history in which the a state or group of states acted in the spirit of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798.

Nullification is the act of making a political action legally void, or cancelling it out. One example of nullification in U.S. history can be found through the years of 1808-1809, when Jefferson’s embargo was imposed by the federal government stating that American cargo ships could not travel to foreign ports. In January of 1809, Massachusetts declared this act unconstitutional. Following closely after in February, the governor of Connecticut ordered state officials to be uncompliant in regards to Jefferson’s embargo. Lastly, in March, Rhode Island declared that it’s (state) government would protect any and all of it’s people against this unconstitutional exercise of power by the federal government.


Enlightened Absolutism & The American Revolution (L60)

1.) What was “enlightened absolutism”?

Enlightened absolutism was what is was called when absolutist rulers adopted certain Enlightenment ideals; this was also commonly found to involve direct friendships between rulers and Enlightenment thinkers. For example, there was a tight knit friendship between Voltaire and Frederick II of Prussia.

2.) What was the constitutional dispute between the colonists and the British government that led to the American Revolution? Give specific examples of how this constitutional dispute was evident in particular events.

The constitutional dispute that led to the American Revolution stemmed from the French government’s undermining of the preestablished colonial system of self government. The colonists political convictions were founded on their faith in the 17th century theory of the constitution, which consisted of customary restraints on governmental power; whereas the idea of the British constitution had evolved to include parliamentary supremacy by the 18th century.
This constant power struggle was evident, expressed during many events; one of the major happenings having been the Stamp Act in 1765. This was a large tax imposed on people who were investing in any types of documents, or anything that had to be printed; from playing cards, to paperwork. There were three main forms of resistance from these taxes, which included boycott, direct action and intimidation, and official remonstrances. This eventually led to the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, but was quickly followed up by the issuance of the Declaratory Act, which stated that Parliament retains the power to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever”. This only made it clear to the colonists that they would have to fight harder than ever for their rights; and that is exactly what they did.