Why are the 6 principles of the Constitution important?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The six principles of the Constitution are important because they make sure that our government will not be too powerful and that it will not be able to take our rights away from us very easily.  All of the principles are aimed at this goal.  Let us look at how this is so for each of the principles:

  •         Popular sovereignty.  By giving the people the right to rule themselves, the Constitution protects our rights.  We are the ones who are in charge and we will not be likely to vote for laws or representatives who take away our rights.
  •         Limited government.  When we limit what the government can do, we make sure it is not too strong.  We make sure that it does not have the power to take away our rights.
  •         Separation of powers.  This ensures that no one part of government can get too strong.  By giving different powers to the different branches, we make each branch too weak to tyrannize us.  If there were one, all-powerful branch of government, it could more easily take away our rights.
  •         Checks and balances.  This gives each branch power to stop the other branches from doing things to hurt us.  For example, if the Congress passes a law that would take away our rights in some way, the President can veto it.  This helps protect our rights.
  •         Judicial review.  This is really just one aspect of checks and balances and separation of powers. It allows the Supreme Court to invalidate laws that are unconstitutional. By doing this, the Court can protect our freedoms from laws that infringe on them.  For example, the Court protected the freedom of African Americans in the 1950s by ruling that laws that segregated schools were unconstitutional.
  •         Federalism.  This splits power up between the states and the federal government.  Again, this prevents any part of government from getting too powerful and abusing us.  If the states have some power, they can resist federal attempts to reduce our rights.

Thus, all of the six principles of the Constitution are meant to prevent government from becoming too strong because a government that is too strong is one that can infringe on our rights.

 

Here is a video that further discusses these 6 principles:

Sources:
macd5301's profile pic

macd5301 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The six principles of the Constitution give a guideline for how the United States Government was to be ran.  The writers of the Constitution were fearful of their government having too much power and set out to make sure that when writing the Constitution the government would have rules and principles that it had to follow.  The first principle popular sovereignty is defined as "a doctrine in political theory that government is created by and subject to the will of the people".  This means that the citizens of the country get to choose, by voting, on the people they want to represent them.  An example of this is when we as citizens vote for a a Senator to vote on issues within the Senate.  We vote for people that have similar values as ours in hopes that they carry those values throughout their term in office.  The second principle is that of limited government which prevents the government from becoming too powerful and states that the government can only do what the people give it the power to do.  This was important to the Framers because they felt that their rights had been violated by the British government.  Within the principle of Limited Government only the people can give the government the right to increase taxes, unlike the British who taxed the colonies heavily without the consent of the colonists.  The third principle, separation of powers created the three legislative branches of government; the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branch.  Powers are distributed throughout the three branches with the Constitution outlining the powers and responsibilities of each branch.  The President is the leader of the Executive Branch and is responsible for enforcing and carrying out the laws of the United States.  Within the Legislative Branch there is Congress, including the House of Representatives and the Senate.  These bodies within government are responsible for writing and passing laws.  The Judicial Branch has the primary responsibility of declaring the Constitutionality of the laws in the United States.  The principle of Checks and Balances prevents one branch of government from becoming too powerful.  There are several examples of how this works in our government.  If Congress passes a law the president, as part of the Executive Branch can veto this law therefore checking the power of the Legislative Branch.  That law would then go back to Congress to be voted on once more therefore checking the power of the president.  The Judicial Branch can also check the power of the Legislative Branch by declaring a law that it passes unconstitutional.  Judicial review is the principle that no government representative is above the law.  It states that all government officials must follow the laws of the United States and prosecutes those that do not.  One example of this is the Senate deciding to impeach the President for not following his Oath of Office.  Federalism is the division of power between the national government and the states.  An example of federalism is that the national government has the right to declare war on another country, the states do not have the right to do so.  Powers under federalism are also reserved for the states, for example the states have the right to decide how they set up their education system.  Concurrent powers are granted to both to the national and state government, for example both governments have the right to set and regulate their own taxes.  

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