The Constitution of the United States is a document that outlines the basis of our federal government. It was written in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 55 men at the convention are called the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. Men like George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton are just a few of the Founding Fathers.
U.S. Constitution Facts
The Constitution is composed of a Preamble (an introduction), the main body (which consists of seven articles), and amendments (additions to the Constitution made after the Constitution was created).
Outline of the Constitution:
Preamble (Introduction) – Explains that the Constitution proposes to establish a more perfect government complete with justice, tranquility, and liberty
ARTICLE I – Establishes the Legislative Branch (House of Representatives and the Senate).
ARTICLE II – Establishes the Executive Branch (headed by the President).
ARTICLE III – Establishes the Judicial Branch (a system of courts and judges).
ARTICLE IV – Establishes the relationship between the states and the federal government. Describes how to admit new states to the Union.
ARTICLE V – Describes how to amend the Constitution.
ARTICLE VI – Establishes the Constitution as the supreme law of the USA. Authorizes the national debt (Congress can borrow money). Public officials must take an oath to support the Constitution.
ARTICLE VII – Lists the requirements for ratification of the Constitution.
Amendments 1-10 (Called The Bill Of Rights was added in 1791.) – Preserves the rights of the people.
Amendment 1 – Freedom of religion, press, speech
Amendment 2 – Right to bear arms
Amendment 3 – Limits the quartering of soldiers
Amendment 4 – Search and seizure of property
Amendment 5 – Right to a trial if accused, no self-incrimination required, no double-jeopardy (you cannot be tried twice for the same crime)
Amendment 6 – Right to a speedy trial by jury and confrontation of witnesses
Amendment 7 – Right to a trial by jury in civil cases
Amendment 8 – Prohibits cruel and unusual punishment
Amendment 9 – People may have other rights, even if they are not listed here
Amendment 10 – The federal government’s powers are limited to those listed in the Constitution
Amendment 11 (1798) – Judicial limits
Amendment 12 (1804) – Method for choosing the President, Vice President
Amendment 13 (1865) – Abolished slavery
Amendment 14 (1868) – Rights of citizenship to all people born in USA or naturalized
Amendment 15 (1870) – Gives the right to vote to all citizens, regardless of color or race, but women are not mentioned
Amendment 16 (1913) – Income tax authorized
Amendment 17 (1913) – Senators elected by the popular vote
Amendment 18 (1919) – Prohibition – Liquor prohibited
Amendment 19 (1920) – Women’s suffrage (voting rights)
Amendment 20 (1933) – New terms of office for the President and Congress
Amendment 21 (1933) – Amendment 18 repealed (overturned)
Amendment 22 (1951) – Presidential term limited
Amendment 23 (1961) – Presidential vote given to Washington, D. C.
Amendment 24 (1964) – Poll taxes barred (you cannot charge people to vote)
Amendment 25 (1967) – Presidential disability and succession
Amendment 26 (1971) – Voting age lowered to 18 years old (same as the age at which men can be drafted into the army)
Amendment 27 (1992) – Congressional pay increases go into effect only during the next Congressional session.
Constitution Quick Facts
- The Constitution was signed September 17th, 1787.
- The preamble is the introduction to the Constitution.
- There are 7 Articles in the Constitution.
- The Constitution has been amended 27 times. To amend is to change.
- The 3 branches of government are Legislative, Executive, Judicial.
- The first 10 amendments are called The Bill of Rights.
- The main job of the legislature is to make the laws.
- The Legislature has two houses called Congress, which is divided into the House of Representatives and the Senate.
- There are 435 members in the House of Representatives.
- There are 100 members in the Senate.
- A Bill has to go through both houses and then the President before it can become a law.
- Congress has the power to tax, print money, and declare war.
- The Executive Branch enforces laws and is lead by the President.