Birth of the U.S. Constitution

Matt Bartsch, Catherine Brewer, and Meghan Ngerlach

Petition of Right, 1628

The Petition of Right is a major English constitutional document that sets out specific liberties of the people that the king is unable to infringe. The reason this document was created, was because the people felt their king at too much power, and this document limited the king's power a bit more. The document was written mainly by Sir Edward Coke, a man who represented the people and took their beliefs into his writing.

Effect on the Constitution

Though there were nearly 150 years between the time the Petition of Right was written, and the U.S. Constitution was written, the Petition of Right still had a large effect. In the original document, the petition limits the king's right to non-Parliamentary taxation, forced billeting of soldiers, imprisonment without cause, and restricts the use of martial law. All of these restrictions influenced the U.S. Constitution in limiting the power of the government.

George Washington

Most people know George Washington as just the first president of the United States. Many others know Washington as a general in the Revolutionary War. Very few people realize he was one of the fathers of the constitution.

Effect on the Constitution

Washington's experience in the Revolutionary War had convinced him that excessive concerns for states' rights and state sovereignty would be fatal to an effective national government. As the delegate of Virginia for the Philadelphia Convention, his presence was more of an effect than his counsel at the convention, according to his biographer, Douglas Southdale Freeman. On March 4, 1789, the Constitution became the law of the land, and on April 30, Washington became the nation's first president.

Thomas Hobbes

Hobbes was an English philosopher, known more today for his political philosophy. During his time, he was known for his creation of the social contract. This "contract" shares the beliefs that the government should reform itself to suit the people, not the government.

Effect on the Constitution

Thomas Hobbes was a supporter of a monarchy. He believed in equality, and describes a state as being a large person. He believed in three natural laws that later on supported the constitution:

1. Peace should not be sought. When it cannot be obtained, war ensues.

2. To have peace we must give up certain rights, such as the right to kill or steal.

3. Contracts must be kept. Power must be given to ensure laws are maintained.

Natural Law

Natural law is the philosophical doctrine that the authority of the legal system or of certain laws derives from their justifiability by reason, and indeed that a legal system which cannot be so justified has no legal authority.

Effect on the Constitution

Natural law isn't necessarily real, but it's more of a moral law. Basically what it's saying is that your legal system cannot be morally justified, it has no power. The people will not follow the laws of the land.