The Key to the Protection Against Tyranny in the American Constitution

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Tyranny riddles many forms of government, such as oligarchy, absolute monarchy, dictatorship, autocracy, and totalitarianism. In May of 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia gathered to create a stronger central government -- while avoiding the tyranny that so many other forms of government had allowed for. James Madison, of one those very same delegates, defined tyranny as “The accumulation of all the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many...” in Federalist Paper #47. The key to the protection against tyranny in the American Constitution was the way in which power was divided. The Constitution guarded against tyranny by making provisions for federalism, the separation of powers, checks and balances of power, and fairly equal congressional power.

In the Constitution, central and state governments received power that was shared and split in a federalist system, preventing tyranny of one over the other. Madison put forward his idea of federalism in Federalist Paper #51. “...the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments...The different governments will each control each other, at the same time each will be controlled by itself” (Doc. A). A Venn diagram derived from the Constitution shows that the central government controlled national affairs such as war, foreign trade, and foreign relations, and states controlled internal affairs such as establishing public services and regulating in-state businesses. The shared powers included taxes, loans, and laws. Despite Madison’s bias towards the federalist system (rarely does one truly attack one’s own political treatise within it) in his quote, the apportioning of powers shows that neither the central or st...

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...ny of a branch by setting controls on each branch set by the other branches. Fairly equalizing representation in Congress protected the power of small states overall while preserving that of larger states. However, the framers may have mistakenly given the power to prevent tyranny to the government, not the people. The framers crafted a delicate system, but one that focused on creating strong inter-governmental relations. Since the first Constitution was drafted, power slowly began shifting to the national government. If the branches wished to control more, it would not matter if they controlled each other because they would all move together. The focus on creating a government as far away as possible from despotic in a group of white, mostly wealthy, and educated landowners may have prevented the creation of the sort of tyranny-free system the people wished for.
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