Objs. 6-7: Structure of the Constitution • The Constitution is organized like this: • The Preamble • The Articles • articles: the numbered sections of the Constitution • There are 7 articles • The rules of our government are explained in the articles • The Amendments • There are 27 total amendments (additions) to the Constitution • Bill of Rights: the first 10 amendments to the Constitution • Remember – amendments are still part of the Constitution, even though they were added later on. They are just as important as the Preamble and articles!
Part I: The Preamble Preamble: short introduction to the Constitution WE THE PEOPLE: emphasizes concept of popular sovereignty “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Preamble: What does it mean? • We the People: People, not a higher power • A more perfect union: cooperation between states • Justice: Fair laws and fair trade • Domestic Tranquility: Peace among citizens; no more rebellions • Defence: protection from other countries • Welfare, security, and blessings: Access for all to liberty and freedom
Part II: The Articles • 7 Articles (sections) • Article I: Legislative Branch (Congress) • Article II: Executive Branch • Article III: Judicial Branch • Article IV: States – their relationships with the national govt and with each other • Article V: How to add amendments to the Const. • Article VI: Declares the Constitution the supreme law of the land • Article VII: Explains how to ratify the Constitution
Article I: The Legislative Branch • Article I: The Legislative Branch • Article I establishes: • Congress has law-making power • Congress is bicameral (H.O.R. and Senate) • Qualifications for members of Congress • Rules, powers, and guidelines for Congress
Article II: The Executive Branch • Article II: The Executive Branch • Enforces the laws • Includes: • Pres and Vice Pres • Pres. Cabinet • Executive Agencies (ex. Dept of State, Dept of Health) • Independent Executive Agencies (ex. NASA)
Article 3: The Judicial Branch • Article III: The Judicial Branch • Supreme Court: Decides constitutionality of laws • Inferior Courts • District • Appeals • Special Courts • Tax • Military • Federal Claims • Etc….
Article IV: The States • Section 1: Each State must honor the records and laws of all other States • Section 2: States must treat residents of other States equally to its own residents • Section 3: Rules for admitting new States in to the Union • Section 4: Guarantee of a Republican form of government in each State • NOT Republican as in the political party • But republican, meaning we have a representative government that respects the power of the people to make decisions in government
Article V: Amendments • Amendments • additions to the Constitution • Once added, they are legally part of the Constitution, and are just as important as the original document. • Deal with issues that have arisen through US history • Bill of Rights: 1st 10 amendments to the Const. • 27 total amendments
The Constitution: A Living Document • Constitution IS and IS NOT the same document it was in 1787 • Our basic government structure is the same • But, we have added/removed things over the years • The Constitution can change in many ways • Amendments are formal changes – changes that become part of the written language of the Constitution • But most of the changes in our Constitution are informal changes – changes in the interpretation of the words of the Constitution (these changes aren’t actually written down, but they have the biggest impact on how our government operates)
Informal Changes • Constitution is short, broad, and open to interpretation • Most changes to Constitution DO NOT involve formal amendments • Informal changes occur in 5 ways…. • Legislation by Congress • Congress passes laws that answer questions not addressed in the Constitution • Ex. Presidential succession – Constitution doesn’t say who takes office if Prez and VP die, so Congress passes a law
Informal changes • Executive Action • the ways different Presidents have used their power • Ex: treaties have to be approved by Congress, but an executive agreement does not • Court Decisions • The Supreme Court decides how the words of the Constitution work in practice • Political Party Practices • The Constitution says nothing about political parties • Yet, many govt actions are influenced by them • Customs • Ex. : Presidents never ran for 3rd terms until FDR, who served 4 terms. We added the 22nd amendment as a result