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The Constitution. The Structure and Underlying Principles. The Constitution & Its Parts. The main purpose of the Constitution is to provide a framework for government, but it is also the highest authority in the nation. The powers of all branches come from it. It has three main parts:

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The Constitution

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The Constitution

The Structure and Underlying Principles

The Constitution & Its Parts

  • The main purpose of the Constitution is to provide a framework for government, but it is also the highest authority in the nation.

  • The powers of all branches come from it.

  • It has three main parts:

    • Preamble

    • Seven articles

    • Twenty-seven amendments

The Preamble

  • The Preamble states the goals & purposes of government.

  • To form a more perfect Union

  • To establish Justice

  • To insure domestic Tranquility

  • To provide for the common defense

  • To promote the general Welfare

  • To secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves & our Posterity.

Preamble- Six Goals of Government

The Articles

The Articles

  • The articles explain how government is to work. The first three articles describe the powers & responsibilities of the three branches of government.

  • Article I describes the legislative branch as two houses with lawmaking authority. It then describes how members will be chosen. The article also lists specific powers Congress does & does not have.

  • Article II establishes the executive, or law-enforcing, branch headed by a president & vice president. It explains how leaders will be elected & can be removed, & describes their powers & duties.

  • Article III establishes the judicial branch to interpret & apply the laws. It calls for a Supreme Court & lower courts & describes the powers of federal courts.

  • Article IV, the “full faith and credit” clause says that all states must respect one another’s laws & explains the process of creating new states.

  • Article V describes the amendment process.

  • Article VI contains the supremacy clause which declares that the Constitution is the “supreme Law of the Land.”

  • Article VII describes how the Constitution would be ratified.

Amending the Constitution

  • An amendment is any change to the Constitution. The first 10 amendments are the Bill of Rights.

  • The Framers made sure that the Constitution could not be altered without overwhelming support of the people.

  • Only 27amendments have become law.

Amending the Constitution

  • Why do we need to be able to amend our Constitution?

Come gather ‘round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’

The Times They Are A-Changin’by Bob Dylan (1964)

Come writers & critics

Who prophesize with your pen

And keep your eyes wide

The chance won’t come again

And don’t speak too soon

For the wheel’s still in spin

And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’

For the loser now

Will be later to win

For the times they are a-changin’

Verse 2

Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside

And it is ragin’

It’ll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’

Verse 3

Come mothers & fathers

Throughout the land

And don’t criticize

What you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is

Rapidly agin’

Please get out of the new one

If you can’t lend a hand

For the times

They are a-changin’

Verse 4

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is

Rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times

They are a-changin’

Verse 5

Questions for Discussion

  • What do you think the song is about, i.e. “what’s going on?”

  • In each verse, Dylan is challenging a certain group to change. Analyze each verse of the song and identify who or what needs to change.

  • What do you think is the overall message of the song?

  • What forces might make it necessary to change the Constitution?

Amendment Process

Methods of Proposal

Methods of Ratification

Method 1

By 2/3 vote in both the House and the Senate

Method 1

By legislatures in ¾ of the states



Method 2

Ratified through conventions in ¾ of the states.

Method 2

By national constitutional convention called by Congress

Interpreting the Constitution

  • The Constitution is general & open to interpretation.

  • Article I gives Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary & proper” to carry out its duties.

  • This necessary & proper clause allows Congress to exercise implied powers not specifically listed in the Constitution.

  • Americans disagree on what laws are “necessary & proper.”

  • Loose interpreters believe Congress can make any laws not specifically forbidden.

  • Strict interpreters believe Congress can make only the kinds of laws mentioned by the Constitution.

  • The Supreme Court has the final authority on interpreting the Constitution. Each new interpretation, whether strict or loose, changes our government.

  • Actions by Congress & the president have also caused new interpretations.

  • For example, the president requests legislation from Congress. This action is not directed by the Constitution.

  • Custom also changes the interpretation of the Constitution.

  • Political parties, not mentioned in the Constitution, are part of today’s political system.

Principles Underlying the Constitution

Principles Underlying the Constitution

Foldable Venn Diagram


Learning Log: 3-2-1

  • 3: goals of government

  • 2: steps in the amendment process

  • 1: principle behind the Constitution

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