The American Constitution: The Roots Of American Constitutionalism

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The Roots of American Constitutionalism
The Constitution of the United States is an intricate document, that has influenced and shaped many newly formed Democratic nations. Many people believe that the ideas in the American Constitution are all novel and original, but that is untrue. The roots of American Constitutionalism are found in the historical paradigms of Western tradition. The fact is, constitutional doctrines were long developed and put into use long before the birth of America. The Greeks, the Romans, the English, and even the Colonialist in the New World all formed constitutional doctrines that would later influence the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution.
Around 508 BC, Athens, a Greek city-state, created a democratic …show more content…

The most important liberty was freedom to speak out for the common good in the public assemblies (16). The Greeks practiced a system of direct democracy, in which participating citizens voted directly on legislation and executive bills. However, only ten percent of Athenians were citizens; one had to be native born, free, male and over the age of 18 to be considered as a citizen. Unlike the Athenian Constitution, the original American Constitution did not list the requirements to vote; Article VI, clause 3, states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States". For the most part of American history, the determination of voters ' qualifications was left to the individual states to decide. It was only after the Civil War period when citizenship and the right to vote were extended. The 14th amendment states that all persons born or naturalized are citizens of the United States; the 15th amendment prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen 's race, color, or previous condition of servitude; the 19th amendment prohibits any …show more content…

The royal charters issued to colonists, were the king 's declaration to the colonists of their rights and responsibilities to him. The colonists typically drafted a compact or covenant, such as the Mayflower Compact, an agreement among themselves, defining how they would govern themselves in accordance with the royal charters. Because the British practiced salutary neglect, the colonists were able to set their own course for independent development. While technically under the authority of the British crown and crown-appointed governors, the American colonies developed very independent-minded legislatures which passed laws for their own governance. The assembly, or lower house of the legislature, represented the people’s interest and was elected by them. Most people were also used to democratic practices such as voting, petitioning, public debate, and demonstrations (45). Because the colonists were used to having a high degree of self-government and democratic practices, many were outraged when the Parliament imposed the Stamp Act on the colonies. Colonial legislatures were accustomed to passing their laws regarding taxation, so when the Stamp Act came into effect, some legislatures went as far as declaring the Act illegal and unconstitutional (44). Events following the Stamp Act, such as the Boston Massacre, and the Quartering Act led to the formation of the Continental Congress.

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