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Framers' immediate practical purpose; to change the unworkable

situation that existed as a result of the lack of an effective central

government under the Articles of Confederation.

The origins and

nature of the English system are different and must be found in

English history, a history familiar to all of the Framers.

The history of English politics can be seen as a long struggle

between King and Parliament over sovereignty. As the English

governmental system changed from feudalism into the modern national

state, the central governmental question was: Who will ultimately

make governmental decisions ?

With the Magna Carta in 1215 we

can see the beginnings of this process in a redistribution of power

between the King and the nobility. The Glorious Revolution of 1688

marked the decisive modern shift of power in favor of the Parliament

over the King. This ultimate resolution in favor of parliamentary

supremacy was fully operative by the time of the American Revolution.

Parliamentary absolutism had replaced monarchical absolutism.


American tradition, however, preferred neither.

It has been correctly

noted that "illimitable power is alien to a Constitution that was designed

to fence all power about."

R. Berger, Impeachment 53 (Harvard

University Press, 1973). In this regard James Iredell, a key figure

in the North Carolina Ratification Convention and a later appointee of

President Washington to the United States Supreme Court, stated in


It was, of course, to be considered how to impose
restrictions on the legislature... [to] guard against
the abuse of unlimited power, which was not to be
trusted, without the most imminent danger, to any
man or body of men on earth. We had not only been
sickened and disgusted for years with the high and
almost impious language from Great Britain, of the
omnipotent power of the British Parliament, but had
severely smarted under its effects. We... should have
been guilty of... the grosse st folly, if in the same
moment when we spurned at the insolent despotism of
Great Britain, we had established a despotic power
among ourselves. Id.

Walter Bagehot in The English Constitution first published in 1867

notes that America "is the type of composite Governments, in which


supreme power is divided between many bodies and functionaries,

so the English is the type of simple Constitutions, in which the ultimate

power upon all questions is in the hands of the same persons." He

goes on to note that this "ultimate power" in England is the House

of Commons, which "can de spotically and finally resolve" any

question of government. W. Bage hot, The English Constitution

219-220 (Cornell University Press, 1963).

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