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Study Notes

Unit 4 Essay Advice: "The modern US Constitution would be unfamiliar to the framers today. Discuss"

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

This Study Note lists many of the key terms you would need to understand and use if you answered this question in the exam, and also 10 super examples to help you gain the highest possible marks.

Make sure you can explain each of the terms below:

  • The Framers/Founding Fathers
  • US Constitution
  • Constitutional Convention 1787
  • Bill of Rights
  • Due Process
  • Roe v Wade 1973
  • Separate but Equal
  • Inherently unequal
  • Growth of Presidential Power
  • Judicial Review
  • Executive Orders
  • Executive Agreements
  • Protection of Rights
  • Second Amendment
  • Power of the Federal Government
  • Amendments to the Constitution

Contemporary Examples

The US Constitution would be unfamiliar to the framers today

  1. The growth of the power of the state in direct opposition to the Bill of Rights such as the mass surveillance by the NSA as revealed by Edward Snowden.
  2. The increase in the number of executive agreements instead of the use of the Senate to ratify treaties. Ronald Reagan used 2,500 executive agreements compared to 125 treaties during his administration in 1981-1989
  3. The extent to which the first amendment is used in campaign finance reform including rulings such Citizen’s Union v FEC 2010 that affirmed the position of Super PACs as spenders of unlimited amounts.

The US Constitution would be familiar to the framers today

  1. The protection of individuals from excessive government is still familiar such as the protection of citizens from the PATRIOT ACT during the Bush administration of 2001-2009
  2. The protection of the the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms from the Supreme Court Case District of Columbia v Heller in 2008
  3. The Every Vote Counts Amendment of 2005 would have abolished the Electoral College, but as the amendment failed the electoral system designed by the founding fathers is almost exactly as they created it.

Historical Examples

The US Constitution would be unfamiliar to the framers today

  1. The Constitution is vague on the power of the judiciary, and as such the Supreme Court gained too much power and has become an imperial judiciary through the power of judicial review found in Marbury v Madison 1803. Not quite what the founding fathers envisaged!
  2. Further growth of Presidential power such as the 6500 Executive Orders issued by Franklin Roosevelt would be unfamiliar to the framers.

The US Constitution would be familiar to the framers today

  1. The precedent of Washington to serve no more than two terms enshrined in constitutional law in 1951 under the Twenty Second amendment.
  2. Rights found in the Constitution have been found in a number of court cases such as a woman’s right to an abortion in the Supreme Court Case Roe v Wade 1973. Protection of rights was important to the Framers

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