Influences on the Constitution

By Allie Smith, Joe Foreman, Daniel Schapaer, and Ryan Slack

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How did Baron de Montesquieu influence the Constitution?

“Were the executive power not to have a right of restraining the encroachments of the legislative body, the latter would become despotic; for as it might arrogate to itself what authority it pleased, it would soon destroy all the other powers.” - French philosopher Charles Secondat, also known as Baron de Montesquieu.

The founding fathers relied heavily upon past philosophers and thinkers when drafting the Constitution. One, Baron de Montesquieu, was very influential in that he was a major supporter of checks and balances and separation of power. James Madison especially drew from Montesquieu's ideas. Montesquieu's theory was that the most effective way to keep corruption out of the government was to divide the power between different sectors and provide each sector with the ability to hold the others accountable. This would keep one sector from overtaking another if it became corrupt and power hungry. By separating the government into three sectors- the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches- the ability of the government to ward off corruption is higher than if all power is placed in one.

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How did Roger Sherman influence the Constitution?

"The question is not what rights naturally belong to man, but how they may be most equally and effectually guarded in society." - Roger Sherman

Sherman opposed Parliament's unjust taxation methods (taxation without representation) although he did not oppose a government itself or neccessary taxes, as long as the right to tax was not abused by political leaders. He especially believed in separation of power.

These views emerge in the Constitution in how the government is set up. He worked with Deleware delegation and New Jersey's William Patterson to help find a solution to/ calm the debate between different-sized states about congressional representation, which at the time had progress at a standstill. The proposal he compiled was dubbed the Great Compromise (or the Connecticut Compromise, being that he represented Connecticut) and outlined the government setup. Basically, he devised the idea of today's government structure: a House of Representatives based on population and a Senate which has equal representation for each state. This proposal was agreed upon by the states and essentially enabled the Constitution to move forward.

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How did the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1638-39) influence the Constitution?

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut enabled the use of a more free, "new" democracy which allowed for better elections and voting processes than those in nearby New England. The fair democracy we see in modern times was virtually non-existent in the 17th century, but the democracy was set up as a result of the Fundamental Orders. It was definitely a step in the creation of the more open and fair democracy we have today, which is officially set up by the Constitution. The Fundamental Orders set up laws that were aimed to follow God's laws without enforcing them exactly, which is also seen in the Constitution.

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How did Natural Law influence the Constitution?

Simply put, natural law is the the analysis of human nature and the use of the information to deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is literally the accepted morals that humans generally have, such as do not kill each other or do not lie. The Christian idea base, the Ten Commandments embodies many general ideas that the human race holds true. Some of the Commandments include do not commit adultury, or steal, or lie, and do not kill another person. The Constitution was made to allow for man's rights to own his own property, be free, and live (within reason) how he chooses. The Constitution does not empower robbery or murder of property. It does not allow for the government to steal or lie.