NDNY-FCBA
Constitutional 
Scholars 
Program


TOPICS

Entries in ALL THREE categories may regard any of the following FIVE topics:

1.    The Independence of Federal Court Judges: How did the framers try 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: Who were each of the two chambers of our bicameral legislature originally intended to represent (i.e., before 1913)? What function did this serve in a system of checks and balances? Also, why was each state’s number of senators fixed rather than tied the state’s population? 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 RightsWho argued against the ratification of the Bill of Rights (i.e., the first 10 amendments to the Constitution), and what were their arguments? 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 Value of Freedom of Speech: Why was freedom of speech one of the first rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights, and what manners of speech was the right intended to protect? What function was freedom of speech intended to serve in a community, and why?

    For help, see the following: First Amendment; James Madison’s article “Public Opinion” in The National Gazette dated Dec. 19, 1791; George Washington’s Address to the Officers of the Army dated March 15, 1783; Essay “On Freedom of Speech and the Press” printed by Benjamin Franklin in The Pennsylvania Gazette in Nov. 1737; and Benjamin Franklin’s Letter (as “Silence Dogood”) in The New England Courant dated July 9, 1722.

5.    Promises Delayed: How did the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence promise rights that were not provided a dozen years later in the Constitution? How were the rights eventually provided? Do you think that the framers envisioned this process as a way to possibly provide these rights? Why or why not?

    For help, see the following: Declaration of Independence; Article I, Section 2, Clauses 1 and 3, of the Constitution; Article I, Section 9, Clause 1, of the Constitution; Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1, of the Constitution; Article V of the Constitution; Federalist Papers Nos. 54, 60 and 85; the Thirteenth Amendment; the Fourteenth Amendment; and the Nineteenth Amendment.

In addition, entries in the VIDEO PERFORMANCE category may regard one of the following FOUR topics:

6.    The Articles of the Constitution: Recite and discuss from memory the seven articles of the Constitution. 

    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.)

7.    The Enumerated Powers of Congress: Recite and discuss from memory the 17 enumerated powers of Congress listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. 

    For help, students sometimes memorize them by using pneumonic devices such as “TCC NBCC PCC PAWN Mama WreN,” standing for the following:

    Power 1. T = Taxes. (E.g., Tax and spend for the common defense and general welfare of the U.S.)

    Power 2. C = Credit. (E.g., Borrow money on the credit of the U.S.)

    Power 3. C = Commerce. (E.g., Regulate commerce with foreign nations and among several states, Indian tribes.)

    Power 4. N = Naturalization. (E.g., Establish uniform laws regarding naturalization.)

    Power 5. B = Bankruptcies. (E.g., Establish uniform laws regarding bankruptcies.)

    Power 6. C = Coinage. (E.g., Coin money.)

    Power 7. C = Counterfeiting. (E.g., Punish counterfeiters of money and securities.)

    Power 8. P = Post Office. (E.g., Establish the post offices and roads.)

    Power 9. C = Copyright. (E.g., Secure copyrights of writings and discoveries.)

    Power 10. C = Courts. (E.g., Organize all federal courts below the Supreme Court.)

    Power 11. P = Piracy. (E.g., Define and punish piracies and felonies on high seas.)

    Power 12. A = Army. (E.g., Raise and support an army.)

    Power 13. W = War. (E.g., Declare war and grant letters of marque.)

    Power 14. N = Navy. (E.g., Provide and maintain a navy.)

    Power 15. M = Militia. (E.g., Organize and discipline the militia.)

    Power 16. W = Washington, DC. (E.g., Create seat of federal government, and necessary forts and dockyards.)

    Power 17. N = Necessary and Proper. (E.g., Make all laws necessary and proper for carrying out these powers.)

8.    The Amendments to the Constitution: Recite from memory the rights protected by the 27 amendments to the Constitution.  

9.    Madison's "If Men Were Angels" Passage: Recite from memory James Madison’s famous “If men were angels” passage from Federalist Paper No. 51 dated Feb. 8, 1788 (which is 8 sentences, or 154 words, long):

    [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. . . .