Influencing the Constitution

Heather, Ryan, Jenna, and Brooke

The Roman Senate

The Romans of the fourth century B.C.E. had a huge effect on our constitution. Many of their ideas bled over into our writing and helped form our country. One of their main ideas were to hold various electing offices and fulfill a property qualification. This meant that people had to become elected to be in the senate and must have a certain amount of property to meet the property qualification. Another idea that is still prevalent today is a fixed number of senators. Here in the United States we have 100 senators. This is a different number from the 500-600 senators in the Roman society, however both are fixed numbers. Both of these factors have effected our constitution and how it was structured and written.

The Athenian Democracy

The Athenians also had a huge effect on our constitution, much more than the Romans however. The Athenians had government requirements: "the only people who could participate in government were male citizens over the age of 18". Although these requirements are different than requirements in modern day America, they were a base for us to operate on when the Constitution was first written.

In the Constitution, it is written that we have the right to appeal to a jury and that any citizen could serve on this jury. This is also derived from the Athenians and their government setup. This was a big change from the past in that the aristocracy no longer decided all legal questions.

Other effects that the Athenians had on our democracy included:

  • Demes- local administrative units that represented neighborhoods, much like our states systems and their government
  • Each tribe selected 50 members to represent them in a council of 500, much like our House of Representatives
  • The power to nullify laws
  • The power to remove candidates from office
  • Citizens were paid to participate in the government, much like how we are paid to participate in the jury

The last important rule that the Athenians had that effected our government was that if you were not a citizen the democratic policies did not apply to you. This is still true today and it is a requirement that you become a citizen before you can participate in the government and have a say in our government

Benjamin Franklin

Effect on the Constitution

  • Did not participate in any particular committee on the Constitution, his influences were still present
  • Believed that the executive power was to great to be placed in the hands of one person
  • Believed in the freedom of speech
  • Favored a unicameral legislature (one branch)
  • Helped break the deadlock and pave a way for what became know as the "Great Compromise".

"I doubt to whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution."

- Ben Franklin

Aristotle and Plato

Effect on the Constitution

Aristotle and Plato had conflicting views on government.


  • Defended slavery
  • The needs of civilizations depended on their wealth, population, class distribution, and so on
  • Presents the idea of three branches in civic government
  • To preserve a constitution, Aristotle recommends moderation, education, and inclusiveness


  • Main question: Is it better to be just or unjust?
  • Conflicting interests of different parts of society can be harmonized
  • Did not like tyrannic democracy
  • Stable with an absence of struggle between individuals and classes

Socrates taught Plato, and then Plato taught Aristotle.

Natural Law and the Preamble

How do they relate?

The Preamble was another way to state the Natural Law Theory.

Natural Law Theory: a label applied to theories of ethics, politics, civil law, and religious morality.

The Preamble: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and ensure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America

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Relating it All Together

  • Basic values would decide how you voted, community decides whats best for you.
  • Unicameral legislature was used in the Roman society
  • Aristotle and Plato were refered to in the Athenian Society
  • Ben believed in the foundation of American values and character- Natural Law