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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
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).