NDNY-FCBA
Constitutional 
Scholars 
Program


TOPICS

1.    The Independence of Federal Court Judges: Identify as many ways as you can that the framers of the Constitution tried to make federal court judges independent (e.g., from the influence of the other branches of government, as well as from popular opinion), and why.

    For help, see the following: Article II, Section 2, and Article III, Section 1, of the Constitution; and Federalist Papers Nos. 78, 79 and 81.

2.    Our Bicameralism: Answer the following three questions: (1) Who were each of the two chambers of our bicameral legislature originally intended to represent (i.e., before 1913), and what function was this intended to serve in a system of checks and balances; (2) how and why was this changed in 1913, and (3) why was each state’s number of senators fixed rather than tied to the state’s population, and what problem(s) was this trying to avoid? 

     For help, see the following: Article I, Sections 1, 3 and 3, of the Constitution; Federalist Paper Nos. 51 and 62; and the Seventeenth Amendment.

3.    The Ratification of the Bill of RightsAnswer the following two questions: (1) Who argued against the ratification of the Bill of Rights (i.e., the first 10 amendments to the Constitution), and what were their arguments, and (2) who argued for its ratification, and what were their arguments? 

    For help, see the following: James Madison’s Notes of the Constitutional Convention dated Sept. 12, 1787; James Wilson’s speech in the Pennsylvania State House on Oct. 6, 1787; Richard Henry Lee’s Letter to Edmund Randolph dated Oct. 16, 1787; George Mason’s Objections to the Constitution dated Oct. 1787; “Brutus II” of the Anti-Federalist Papers dated Nov. 1, 1787; and Federalist Paper No. 84.

4.    The Articles of the Constitution: Answer the following three questions: (1) What is each of the seven articles of the Constitution about; (2) what is each article’s role in relation to the others; and (3) how strong was the judicial branch intended to be in relation to the other two branches, and why?

   For help, sometimes students memorize them by using pneumonic devices such as “Lazy Elephants Jump Slowly And Sit Regularly,” standing for the following:

    Article I. L = Legislative. (E.g., Vests legislative power in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Lists Congress’s enumerated powers. Also lists the powers denied to Congress and the states.)

    Article II. E = Executive. (E.g., Describes the election of the president and vice president, the qualifications for holding the office, and the procedures if a president can no longer serve. Lists the powers of the president, including serving as commander in chief of the army and navy, making treaties, and appointing ambassadors, officials and Supreme Court justices with the “advice and consent of the Senate.” Describes the duty to periodically report to Congress on the state of the union, the power to propose legislation, and the power to call Congress into special session.)

    Article III. J = Judicial. (E.g., Establishes the Supreme Court and authorizes Congress to establish lower federal courts. Identifies the types of cases over which the federal courts have jurisdiction. Provides for the right to trial by jury.)

    Article IV. S = States. (E.g., Requires the legislative and judicial actions of one state to be honored by the other states. Provides that a citizen of any state has the same privileges as citizens of all the other states. Provides for how to add new states to the union. Guarantees each state a republican form of government. Ensures protection against invasion or domestic violence.)

    Article V. A = Amendment Process. (E.g., Describes the ways the Constitution can be amended.)

    Article VI. S = Supremacy of Constitution. (E.g., Declares that the Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties entered into by the United States are the supreme law of the land.)

    Article VII. R = Ratification. (E.g., Requires that nine of the states’ conventions approve the Constitution before it can be ratified.)

5.    The Amendments to the Constitution: Answer the following two questions: (1) What are the 27 amendments to the Constitution; and (2) what are the rights protected by each amendment? 

6.    Madison's "If Men Were Angels" Passage: In a Video Performance (sorry Poster contestants), recite from memory James Madison’s famous “If men were angels” passage from Federalist Paper No. 51 dated Feb. 8, 1788 (attached below). Then, if you want, discuss what you think it means.

    [T]he great security against a gradual concentration of . . . powers in the same department[] consists in giving to those who administer each department the . . . constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. . . . Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the [person] must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If [people] were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern [people], neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by [people] over [people], the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. . . .