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#15: How the Constitution Came to Life

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Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.

The United States became a nation in seventeen seventy-six. Less than a century later, in the eighteen sixties, it was nearly torn apart. A civil war took place, the only one in the nation's history. States from the North and the South fought against each other. The conflict involved the right of the South to leave the Union and deal with issues -- especially the issue of slavery -- its own way.

美国1776年独立建国,但是不到一百年后,又险些一分为二。十九世纪六十年代爆发的南北战争是美国历史上唯一一场内战。南北双方反目为仇,自相残杀。南北战争主要围绕着南方各州是否有权脱离联邦,自行处理内部事务,特别是奴隶制度。

This week in our series, Frank Oliver and Tony Riggs describe how the Constitution survived this very troubled time in American history.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Detail of a Civil War drawing by Alfred R. Waud published in Harper's Weekly in October 1863
Detail of a Civil War drawing by Alfred R. Waud published in Harper's Weekly in October 1863

America's Civil War lasted four years. Six hundred thousand men were killed or wounded. In the end, the slaves were freed, and the Union was saved.

南北战争历时四年,死伤多达60万人。战争结束时,奴隶获得了自由,联邦也完整地保留了下来。

Abraham Lincoln was president during the Civil War. He said the southern states did not have the right to leave the Union. Lincoln firmly believed that the Union of states was permanent under the Constitution. In fact, he noted, one of the reasons for establishing the Constitution was to form a more perfect Union. His main goal was to save what the Constitution had created.

内战期间,林肯担任总统。他坚信,根据宪法,美国各州组成的联邦是永久性的,因此南部各州无权脱离联邦。林肯还提出,制定宪法的目的之一是建立一个更为完善的联邦,他的核心任务就是挽救联邦。

VOICE ONE:

One cannot truly understand the United States without understanding its Constitution. That political document describes America's system of government and guarantees the rights of all citizens. Its power is greater than any president, court or legislature.

要想了解美国,首先要了解美国的宪法。这份政治文件规定了美国的政府体制,保证了公民的权利。宪法的权力高于总统、法院和国会。

In the coming weeks, we will tell the story of the United States Constitution. We will describe the drama of its birth in Philadelphia in seventeen eighty-seven. And we will describe the national debate over its approval. Before we do, however, we want to tell how that document provides for change without changing the basic system of government.

在接下来的几周里,我们要详细介绍美国宪法,从1787年宪法在费城的诞生起,到围绕宪法展开的全民辩论,但是首先我们要讲讲,美国宪法是如何在确保根本政府体制不变的前提下为变革创造空间的。

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

If you ask Americans about their Constitution, they probably will talk about the Bill of Rights. These are the first ten changes, or amendments, to the Constitution. They contain the rights of all people in the United States. They have the most direct effect on people's lives.

被问到美国宪法时,大多数美国人可能都会提到《权利法案》。《权利法案》是美国宪法的前十个修正案,涉及美国所有人的权利,对人民的生活有着最直接的影响。

Among other things, the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, religion, and the press. It also establishes rules to guarantee that a person suspected of a crime is treated fairly.

《权利法案》保证人民有言论自由、宗教信仰自由、新闻自由,还保证犯罪嫌疑人能够得到公平的对待。

VOICE ONE:

U.S. Constitution
U.S. Constitution

The Bill of Rights was not part of the document signed at the convention in Philadelphia in seventeen eighty-seven. The delegates believed that political freedoms were basic human rights. So, some said it was not necessary to express such rights in a Constitution.

《权利法案》并不是1787年在费城签署的宪法的组成部分。当时,有些大陆会议的代表们认为,政治自由是基本人权,所以不必写进宪法里。

Most Americans, however, wanted their rights guaranteed in writing. That is why most states approved the new Constitution only on condition that a Bill of Rights would be added. This was done, and the amendments became law in seventeen ninety-one.

然而,大多数美国人还是希望自己的权利能落实在白纸黑字上,所以大多数州都表示,只有把《权利法案》加进去,才会批准新宪法。结果是,《权利法案》于1791年正式成为法律。

VOICE TWO:

One early amendment involved the method of choosing a president and vice president. In America's first presidential elections, the man who received the most votes became president. The man who received the second highest number of votes became vice president. It became necessary to change the Constitution, however, after separate political parties developed. Then ballots had to show the names of each candidate for president and vice president.

早期的一项修正案是关于总统选举的。在美国独立建国后的第一次总统选举中,得票最多的人当选总统,得票第二多的人当选副总统。然而,多个政党的出现,要求对宪法进行修正,选票上必须分别列出总统和副总统候选人的名字。

VOICE ONE:

The 15th Amendment gave male citizens the right to vote regardless of race, color or previous condition of slavery
The 15th Amendment gave male citizens the right to vote regardless of race, color or previous condition of slavery

There were no other amendments for sixty years. The next one was born in the blood of civil war. During the war, President Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation. That document freed the slaves in the states that were rebelling against the Union. It was not until after Lincoln was murdered, however, that the states approved the Thirteenth Amendment to ban slavery everywhere in the country.

接下来的60年里没有出现更多的宪法修正案,直到南北战争期间,林肯总统公布《解放宣言》,给造反的各州奴隶自由。但是直到林肯遇刺身亡后,这些州才批准了宪法第13修正案,彻底废除奴隶制度。1868年通过的第14修正案规定,任何州都不得限制公民的权利。

The Fourteenth Amendment, approved in eighteen sixty-eight, said no state could limit the rights of any citizen. And the Fifteenth, approved two years later, said a person's right to vote could not be denied because of his race, color, or former condition of slavery.

1870年通过的第15修正案规定,不能因为种族、肤色、或是以前的奴隶身份而剥夺任何人的投票权。

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

By the eighteen nineties, the federal government needed more money than it was receiving from taxes on imports. It wanted to establish a tax on earnings. It took twenty years to win approval for the Sixteenth Amendment. The amendment permits the government to collect income taxes.

我们介绍过美国建国后通过的很多宪法修正案。到十九世纪九十年代的时候,联邦政府对进口商品征收的税已经不足以支持政府的运作了。第16修正案经过20年的时间才得到批准,允许政府征收所得税。

Another amendment proposed in the early nineteen hundreds was designed to change the method of electing United States Senators. For more than one hundred years, senators were elected by the legislatures of their states. The Seventeenth Amendment, approved in nineteen thirteen, gave the people the right to elect senators directly.

二十世纪初提出了另外一项修正案,目的是要改变参议员的选举方式。美国建国后的一百多年间,参议员都是由州议会推选的。1913年通过的第17修正案规定,参议员由选民直接选举产生。

VOICE ONE:

In nineteen nineteen, the states approved an amendment to ban the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol. Alcohol was prohibited. It could not be produced or sold legally anywhere in the United States.

1919年,美国各州通过了禁止造酒、运酒和卖酒的修正案。

The amendment, however, did not stop the flow of alcohol. Criminal organizations found many ways to produce and sell it illegally. Finally, after thirteen years, Americans decided that Prohibition had failed. It had caused more problems than it had solved. So, in nineteen thirty-three, the states approved another constitutional amendment to end the ban on alcohol.

然而,这一修正案无法顺利实施。犯罪团伙找到了各种非法造酒和卖酒的方法。13年后,美国人承认禁酒失败。这一修正案造成的问题比解决的问题还要多。1933年,各州又通过了新的宪法修正案,结束禁酒。

VOICE TWO:

Other amendments in the twentieth century include one that gives women the right to vote. It became part of the Constitution in nineteen twenty. Another amendment limits a president to two four-year terms in office. And the Twenty-sixth Amendment gives the right to vote to all persons who are at least eighteen years old.

二十世纪通过的其他宪法修正案给予了妇女投票权,规定总统最多只能连任两届,每届四年。第26条修正案规定,18岁以上的公民都有投票权。

The Twenty-seventh Amendment has one of the strangest stories of any amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment establishes a rule for increasing the pay of senators and representatives. It says there must be an election between the time Congress votes to increase its pay and the time the pay raise goes into effect.

第27条修正案规定在国会投票决定是否要给自己涨工资和涨工资正式生效之间,一定要有一次选举。这项修正案最早是1789年提出的。

The amendment was first proposed in seventeen eighty-nine. Like all amendments, it needed to be approved by three-fourths of the states. This did not happen until nineteen ninety-two. So, one of the first amendments to be proposed was the last amendment to become law.

根据规定,修正案必须得到四分之三的州批准才能生效,所以一直拖到1992年。因此说,美国最早提出的修正案之一也是最后一个成为法律的。

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

The twenty-seven amendments added to the Constitution have not changed the basic system of government in the United States. The government still has three separate and equal parts: the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. The three parts balance each other. No part is greater than another.

上面讲到的27项宪法修正案并没有改变美国根本的政府体制。美国始终是行政、立法和司法三权分立,互相制衡。

The first American states had no strong central government when they fought their war of independence from Britain in seventeen seventy-six. They cooperated under an agreement called the Articles of Confederation. The agreement provided for a Congress. But the Congress had few powers. Each state governed itself.

美国1776年独立战争打响时,没有一个强大的联邦政府。各州合作根据的是当时的《邦联条例》。《邦联条例》要求建立国会,但国会权力有限。各州还是自行管理。

VOICE TWO:

When the war ended, the states owed millions of dollars to their soldiers. They also owed money to European nations that had supported the Americans against Britain.

独立战争结束后,各州拖欠士兵数百万美元,独立战争中支持美国的欧洲国家也成了美国的债主。

The new United States had no national money to pay the debts. There was an American dollar. But not everyone used it. And it did not have the same value everywhere.

当时,美国国库空虚,无法还债,虽然美元已经存在,但没有普遍流通,各地美元的价值也存在差异。

The situation led to economic ruin for many people. They could not pay the money they owed. They lost their property. They were put in prison. Militant groups took action to help them. They interfered with tax collectors. They terrorized judges and burned court buildings.

这种局面给很多人造成了经济上的灾难,他们无法还债,丧失了财产,被送进监牢。一些民兵团体为了帮助他们,扰乱税务人员的工作,恐吓法官,焚烧法院大楼。

VOICE ONE:

The situation was especially bad in the northeast part of the country. In Massachusetts, a group led by a former soldier tried to seize guns and ammunition from the state military force.

美国东北地区的情况尤其糟糕。在麻萨诸塞州,一群人在退伍军官谢斯的带领下,企图从军队手中夺取枪支和弹药。

Shays' Rebellion, as it was called, was stopped. But from north to south, Americans were increasingly worried and frightened. Would the violence continue? Would the situation get worse?

谢斯起义最后被镇压,但是从北到南,各地的美国人都陷入了严重的恐慌,担心暴力会继续下去,局面会进一步恶化。

VOICE TWO:

Many Americans distrusted the idea of a strong central government. After all, they had just fought a war to end British rule. Yet Americans of different ages, education, and social groups felt that something had to be done. If not, the new nation would fail before it had a chance to succeed. These were the opinions and feelings that led, in time, to the writing of the United States Constitution.

很多美国人对一个强大的联邦政府心存芥蒂,毕竟,他们刚刚结束的战争就是为了摆脱英国的统治。不过与此同时,不同年龄、不同文化程度、不同社会群体的人又都觉得,必须要做些什么才行。否则的话,这个新独立的国家就完全没有机会成功。这种看法最终导致了美国宪法的诞生。

That will be our story in the coming weeks of THE MAKING OF A NATION.

(MUSIC)

ANNOUNCER:

Our program was written by Christine Johnson and read by Tony Riggs and Frank Oliver. Transcripts and MP3s of our programs are at www.unsv.com. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION, an American history series in VOA Special English.

网友的学习评论(2条):
作者:华晨
The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, reglion and the press. It aslo establishes rules to guarantee that a person suspected of a crime is treated fairly.
作者:xuding45
A new constitution was writed in the paper in the United States。Many states join into the county,the constitution come in peoples' soul.
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