Powers Herein Granted
Debate about the limits of the president’s power began at the Constitutional Convention and continues today. James Madison, considered the “Father of the Constitution,” believed that strict limits on federal power were best for liberty. Powers of the federal government which were not enumerated in the Constitution were forbidden. Many later Presidents agreed with Madison, while others, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt, took a more expansive view of the scope of federal power. Theodore Roosevelt was the first President to argue that powers not forbidden were granted. He presided over the greatest expansion of federal power in our nation’s history to that time.
While the President has the power to “recommend measures” to Congress which he believed are necessary, the President is not a lawmaker. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, capitalizing on what Theodore Roosevelt had called the “bully pulpit,” were open advocates of policies they believed were needed, and which also increased the size and power of the central government. Ronald Reagan worked decrease the side of the national government and restore what he saw as the rightful place of states in our federal system. Tension between these two understandings (expressed powers and implied powers), and debate over the outcomes of their exercise, has persisted throughout American history.
Civil Rights Act - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
Partly due to the work of leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., the American public was growing more aware of racial discrimination in society. President John F. Kennedy proposed civil rights legislation during his campaign, and eventually sent a bill to Congress in 1963. After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson took up the cause. The Civil Rights Act, passed by Congress after an 83-day Senate filibuster, made racial discrimination illegal in businesses like restaurants, movie theaters and hotels. Segregation in libraries, schools, and other public facilities was prohibited. Private employers could not discriminate in hiring, and federal funding could be cut off from projects in cases of racial discrimination. The Act also called for uniform standards for voting rights.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 originally included protections only agianst racial discrimination. At the urging of Alice Paul, however, sex discrimination was also made illegal in the bill.
The Act touched on constitutional principles including equality, and majority rule versus minority rights, and highlights the place of law in American society.
Federalism - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
Federalism is a system of dual sovereignty. The Constitution provides a federal system in which power is divided between the federal government and state governments. This is what James Madison called a “double security” in Federalist No. 51. The Constitution specifically lists the powers of the Legislative Branch in Article I, the powers of the Executive Branch in Article II, and the powers of the Judicial Branch in Article III. Under a theory of limited government, the federal government is assumed to have no other powers than those listed. The Tenth Amendment also states the principle that the states and the people retain powers not delegated to the federal government.
Under our federal system, the federal and state governments have reserved and concurrent powers. As the Founders anticipated, the power struggles that sometimes occur between the two types of governments serves as part of the system of checks and balances, designed to prevent an abuse of power and protect individual rights. Supreme Court cases that have involved issues of federalism include McCullough v. Maryland (1819), Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), South Dakota v. Dole (1987), and United States v. Lopez (1995) and United States v. Morrison (2000). Many of these cases hinged on the interpretation of the Commerce Clause.
The Fourteenth Amendment changed federalism by incorporating, for the first time, a check on state power by the national government. Critics say it all but did away with state sovereignty. Supporters say the amendment was vital to protecting individuals from abuses by state governments.
The Seventeenth Amendment also changed federalism by providing for direct election of Senators.
Limited Government - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
Government has only those powers delegated to it by the people. Several articles and amendments to the Constitution create a limited federal government – or one restrained to specific, enumerated powers. Article I lists the powers of Congress. Article II lists the powers of the execute branch. Article III lists the powers of the judiciary branch. The structure and purpose of each branch was devised so as to assure checks and balances, which provide another way of limiting government power and potential abuses. The Tenth Amendment notes that the states or the people retain those powers not delegated to the federal government. This federal systemserves as another check on government power.
However, the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I, Section 8 led some Anti-Federalist critics of the Constitution, including Patrick Henry, to argue that the government’s powers were not sufficiently limited. The Supreme Court has held in cases such as McCullough v. Maryland (1819), that implied powers do exist by virtue of the listed powers. Further, the specific prohibitions against the power of Congress in Article I, Section 9 have been interpreted by some to add weight to the argument in favor of implied powers.
Reserved and Concurrent Powers - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
The Constitution divides power in a federal system. The powers of the federal government are enumerated in Article I, Section 8, while prohibitions on Congress’ power are listed in Article I, Section 9. Limitations on the powers of states are listed in Article I, Section 10. This means that the powers exclusively delegated to the federal government are reserved for itself only, while states keep all the powers not specifically prohibited to them in Article I, Section 10.
This principle is also asserted in the Tenth Amendment.
Want to learn more?
The resources contained on the ArticleII.org website are just the beginning! The Bill of Rights Institute curriculum, Presidents and the Constitution, explores how various presidents understood and exercised their constitutional powers. By exploring constitutional crises in American history, these interactive, hands-on lessons encourage students to analyze the actions of Presidents in light of the Constitution.
Students will engage with:
▪ 15 ready-to-use, interactive lesson plans
▪ Strong focus on primary source activities
▪ Solid content including historical narrative in each lesson
▪ Scholarly thematic essays that introduce each unit
▪ Contemporary application highlighted with an “Issues Endure” portal in each unit
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