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The Constitution

The Five Principles

Six Goals
The Five Principles
The Articles
The Ten Amendments
The 'Signers'
Locating Information

The Five Principles

Popular Sovereignty


    "We the people,".  These three famous words are famous because of being the very first three words in the Constitution.  The meaning of them is to let everybody know, that the people of the United States do have the final thought in the government.

    The Constitution is really a document between the people and the government. It is a contract that states what the laws and rules of the country are.  The document states that the government will have the powers it needs, to have the people and states achieve their goals. Although, it is also made very clear, on what the government does not have rights to do.

    There is a system called representative government. A representative government is where they have ruling power indirectly. They elect public officials that will make laws and will make other sorts of decisions for them.

        Public officials are elected by voting in free, frequent elections.  Still today, Americans have the right to vote for the House of Representatives.  The people will also elect members of the Electoral College, who, in turn, will choose the president.

     When the Constitution had first been ratified, only white men, over the age of twenty-one and owned property had the right to vote. Obviously, the Constitution has changed, dramatically.  Now, any person over the age of eighteen has the right to vote.




   The framers of the Constitution built a very strong, central government.  With this government, they still had made sure that the states had kept their own powers as well.  Most Americans had believed that the states would understand the specific needs of their citizens. With this understanding, the framers believed that the states would do what was best for their citizens.

     Federalism divides its power between the federal government, and the state government.  The federal government has the power to deal with national issues, and the states have the power to deal with local issues.

     The Constitution assigns certain powers to the national government.  Other powers are left to the states.  Some other powers, sometimes called concurrent powers, are left for both the state and national governments to handle. 


Checks and Balances

    In order to prevent one part of the branch from having too much power, the Constitution sets up a system of checks and balances.  Each branch can check, or control, the power of the other two branches.
Congress has the right to pass bills.  However, the Presidnt can still influnce the lawmaking process.  He does this by proposing new bills or by pushing a member, or members, of Congress to vote for, or against, a bill. The President can also check Congress by vetoing a bill. The vetoed bill will then go back to Congress.
     The Supreme Court has the power to rule whether a law is unconstitutional. Any law that is declared unconstitutional by the court, will not take effect. Congress has a lot of powers over the President.  An example, is that the President is commander in cheif of the armed forces, but only Congress has the power to declare war.  Congress may check the President by overriding a presidential veto.  This means that a bill can become a law without the President's signature.  But if this was to be done, two thirds of eacho house must vote to override the veto.  The Supreme Court can also check the president, by declaring that an act of the President is unconstitutional.
Both the President and Congress, have several checks on the power of the judicial branch.  The President appoints all of the federal judges, while the Senate must approve all of the Presidents choices.  Congress also has the power to remove federal judges from office if they are found guilty of doing something wrong.  Congress may also suggest a constitutional amendment to overrule a judicial decision.

Representative Government- government in which voters elect representatives to make laws for them
Bill- proposed law
Veto - to reject
Unconstitutional - not permitted by the Constitution
Overriding - to overrule or set aside

Limited Power
    The framers of the Constitution had lived under the horrifying rule of the British king.  The had all feared Tyranny, or a cruel, unfair government.  The failures of the Articles of Confederation had made it clear that the national government, needed to be structured, and strong.
    In order for the people to keep their part in command, they needed to set up a limited government.  According the this principle, the government will only be able to have the powers that the people will give them.  The Constitution cleary states, all of the powers given to the government.  It just as clearly states the powers that the government does not have.
     All of the most important limits and laws of the government, are issued in the Bill of Rights.  It guarntees that the government will not take away the freedoms of individuals.  These freedoms inclue freedom of speech, press, and religion.  Those are just a few. 
    The Ninth Amendment goes far beyond just these specific guarentees.  It says that the people have rights that may not be listed in the Constitution.  The Tenth Amendment gives the people of the states the rights that may not have been formally granted by the Constitution.

Seperation of Powers
    The framers hadn't wanted a person, or group, to abuse the powers they had.  In order to keep that from happening, the Constitution divided the national government into three branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial.  Each of these three branches has their own powers, and responsibilites.  This division of the national government is known as the seperation of powers.
   The first artivle in the Constitution sets up the legislative branch.  This branch is called Congress, and it makes the laws.  Congress has two houses.  One of them is called the House of Representatives, and the other, Senate.  The powers given to them, include the power to tax, to coin money, and to declare war.
  Article 2 descrbies the executive branch.  The executive branch carries out the laws.The President appoints officials to help carry out the duties of the office.
   Article 3 creates the Supreme Court to head the judicial branch.  The Supreme Court interprets and explains laws.  Congress may set up lower courts as needed.



We the people...

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
   -The Preamble, the U.S. Constitution