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Ideologies That Informed the Historical Context of the U.S. Constitution, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 686

Essay

The United States Constitution was not produced in a vacuum. That is to say, it was not the spontaneous creation of some individual minds, put together in a haphazard manner. The Constitution was determined by a particular historical context, which shaped the document’s precise content. In particular, it can be stated that the Constitution emerged in direct relation to the British Empire, from which the United States seceded. Namely, the very reason for the United States’ breaking away from Great Britain is because of a dissatisfaction with the British style of politics and policies. In this regard, it can be suggested that the U.S. Constitution is defined as a specific ideology which the Founding Fathers advanced as a response to what they perceived to be the shortcomings of British politics.

The primary ideological position of the Constitution is already stated at the outset. A particular notion of liberty is the ideological ground of the text, informing its entire context. But what does such a liberty ultimately mean? When examining the Constitution, it can be suggested that such a liberty is primarily defined in terms of its distancing from a British style of government. The centralized power of British empire is to be avoided in the Constitution, with a more diffuse power structure that is consistent with the ideology of individual liberty. For example, the organization of the United States government on a state-based level and employing a representative democracy in which power is split amongst the constitutive states of the Republic shows a clear movement away from British centralizations of power. As opposed to the authoritative power of British monarchy and the greater British empire, the U.S. Constitution reflects a more subtle proportioning of governmental powers, in order to avoid such centralization. Ideologically, the U.S. Constitution thus develops as a certain antithesis to British accounts of political power.

This is not to say that the U.S. Constitution was a complete rejection of the British style of government. For example, the representative style of democracy, in terms of parliamentary democracy, was favored, as is made clear in Section 2. The British also possessed a similar form of government. But it can be argued that these parliamentary and representative democracies, although similar in their form, differed in their underlying viewpoints regarding power. As made clear in the U.S. style of this representative democracy, ideologically speaking there was a commitment to avoiding any concentrations of power: the British parliament, ultimately under the authority of the monarchy, wanted to preserve power elites. There is rather a combination of power outlined in the Constitution, between the Congress, the Senate and the office of the President, which allows for a more fluid and dynamic power structure in ideal practice. That is to say, that the ideological intent was to avoid concentrations and calcifications of power in the system, which can lead to corruption and hegemony. Rather, the intent was to continually transfer power.

The reason for the latter transference of power is consistent with the particular conception of liberty at stake in the Constitution. Namely, this conception of liberty is one concentrated in individual autonomy and rights. There is an ideological subtext to the Constitution which suggests that such liberty on an individual level is incompatible with massive and long-standing governmental powers. The fear exists that the latter will ultimately destroy the former, a situation which happened with Great Britain’s rule of the United States in the form of the raising of taxes against individual and group protests on the part of the people.

Accordingly, the U.S. Constitution is a response to a particular historical context and ideology, which was above all defined by the politics of Great Britain. The Constitution reflects a desire to move away from these politics, taking the best ideas of the British system, such as parliamentary and representative democracy, and combining it with a radical notion of liberty that emphasized individual autonomy over a massive bureaucratic apparatus. In other words, the Constitution is the result of the founding fathers learning from their historical and political context, and trying to advance a document that would create a better historical and political context.

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