Factors Influencing the Shape of the Constitution

The shape of the U.S. Constitution as it was developed at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was certainly influenced by such factors as the colonial experience, the revolt against British rule, and the failure of the earlier Articles of Confederation. Yet, the ideas embodied in the Constitution had been taking shape for some time before any of these elements had come into being. Indeed, the ideas expressed in the Constitution derived from European theorists such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, though the manner in which these ideas were adopted by the colonists was influenced by the various elements of the colonial experience. The colonists had fled Europe precisely to avoid many of the legal features against which the Constitution would be written, such as star-chamber proceedings, restricted speech and press, and inherited rule instead of democratic selection of leaders. The solutions offered by the Federalists were opposed by the Antifederalists, and in the end each group had some influence in shaping the government and institutions developed in the Constitution.

The Constitution itself would become the means to test the first federal system in the modern world. This was then an innovation in Western political theory and practice, and it would be highly influential over the next two centuries, as it continues to be today. Federalism presents a number of problems that political theorists have wrestled wit



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