How the Constitution is Organized
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How the Constitution is Organized

The Constitution is organized into three
main parts; the Preamble, the Articles, and the Amendments. When it was written in 1787 it only took up several large pages, but the best way to think about its
organization, is by comparing it to a book. The Preamble is like an introduction. The Articles are like chapters and the Amendments are like a glossary at the end of the book. The Constitution begins with the Preamble, which is like an Introduction to a book, because it tells us what the rest of the
Constitution is going to be about. It states, “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.” Sound familiar? Most people have heard some of the Preamble before, and recognize a few of the ideas it introduces. It is introducing the Constitution and the ideas you’ll find in it, like justice in the court system, and the defense provided by the military. The next step in the Constitution are the
Articles, which are like the chapters of a book. There are seven total and each one
has a theme. Articles 1 2 & 3 go over the three branches of government; the
Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches. Article 4 goes over how the
relationships between states will work. Article 5 goes over the procedures to
amend or change the Constitution. Article 6 goes over several things including national debt, the supremacy clause, – which states that the Constitution is the
supreme law of the land – and the Oath of Office for high-ranking officials. Finally, Article 7 goes over the procedure for ratifying or approving the Constitution, followed by the signatures of the state delegates, who signed the
document into law back in the 1700’s. Last are the Amendments. They’re like a
glossary at the end of a book. With a glossary or dictionary as new words
are created in the English language they are added in. It works the same way with
Amendments. When the founding fathers were writing the Constitution they couldn’t
predict every new issue that would arise over time so they wrote Article 5 outlining how the Constitution can be amended. As new issues have arisen, new Amendments have been added to the Constitution. The first 10 were the Bill of Rights which granted individuals protections from the government. In the most recent, the 27th Amendment, states that congressional pay cannot increase
or decrease in the middle of a term. Usually every decade or so a new
Amendment makes its way through the ratification process and is added to the
Constitution. So chances are in your lifetime, you’ll live to see a few more. So far we’ve talked about how the Constitution is physically organized with the Preamble, Articles and Amendments; however, the Constitution is also
organized around six major principles or ideas. Popular sovereignty, federalism, the
separation of powers checks and balances, judicial review and limited government. Popular Sovereignty means the power is with the people and introduces the idea
that the people will do the ruling in the United States. Federalism refers to how the United States government is structured. The power is divided between
the national government and the state government, which are two separate
systems. The separation of powers refers to the way the national government is
organized into three separate branches; the Legislative branch, the Executive
branch and the Judicial branch. The founding fathers divided up these powers
so no one individual or group would hold too much power like a King. Checks and balances is the idea that each of the three branches has a few powers over the other two branches. For example, Congress makes the laws but the president has to approve them by signing them into law and the court has the power to declare laws unconstitutional if they violate the Constitution. Judicial review is the idea that federal courts can declare local, state, and national laws
unconstitutional. Limited government is the idea that the government’s power is not absolute, or in other words, unlimited. The branches have only those powers given to them in the Constitution and the Amendments. These ideas were revolutionary and almost unheard of at the time the Constitution was written. No other country on Earth was being ruled strictly by its own people under a set of laws written by people of non-royal birth. Alright, time to review.Pop quiz. What do we call the introduction to the Constitution? The Preamble. What do the
first three articles go over? The Legislative, Executive, and Judicial
branches. What are Amendments and how many are there? Amendments are changes to the Constitution and there are currently 27. What does popular sovereignty mean? It means that the people have the power. What is federalism? Federalism means the power is divided between the national and state governments. What does the separation of powers refer to? The separation of powers refers to the fact that the government is divided up among the three branches; Legislative, Executive, and Judicial so no group or individual gets too much power. What are checks and balances? Checks and balances are powers each branch has over the other two branches. What is judicial review? Judicial review is the process by which
federal courts can declare local, state, and national laws unconstitutional. And finally, what is limited government? Limited government is the idea that the
government doesn’t have an unlimited amount of power; only the power it’s given in the Constitution and the Amendments. Congratulations! You now know the organization and the principles of the Constitution.

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