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The United States Constitution. US Constitution. The Constitution is the United States’ fundamental law It is also “the supreme Law of the Land” meaning it is the highest form of law in the United States. Purpose of the Document. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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The United States Constitution

The Constitution is the United States fundamental law It is also the supreme Law of the Land meaning it is the highest form of law in the United States.

US Constitution

It sets out the basic principles upon which government in the US was built and operates today.Length/Size of:Relatively brief document7000 words6 pages longPurpose of the Document

Constitution is broken into (3) parts:The Preamble7 numbered sections called Articles The 27 Amendments

Breakdown ofArticle I Legislative BranchArticle IIExecutive BranchArticle IIIJudicial BranchArticle IVState RelationshipArticles of Constitution

This part of the Constitution deals with:How formal amendments may be added.Article V

This part of the Constitution states:The Constitution is the nations supreme law.Oath of office

Article VI

This part of the Constitution deals with:The ratification of the Constitution.

Article VII

In the US, all political power resides in the people and is the only source for any and all governmental power.Where does the National Government get its power?People/States

Popular Sovereignty

Define ConstitutionalismGovernment must be conducted according to constitutional principlesLimited Government

Legislative, executive and judicial powers are distributed (separated) among 3 distinct and independent branches of the government.

Separation of Powers

Framers purpose:Limit the powers of government

Separation of Powers

Checks and Balances

The (3) branches of Federal government are tied together by a system of checks and balances What does this mean?Each branch can check the power of another

Power divided between the legislative and executive branch between the 2 major parties.Impact on government:NOTHING gets done.

Divided Government Power of the courts to determine whether what government does is in accord with what the Constitution provides.Definition:Power to declare a government action illegal, null and void.Judicial Review

Marbury v. MadisonFramers wanted a stronger central government.And also wanted to keep the concept of self-government.Federalism

The United States Constitution has been in force for over 200 years, making it the oldest written constitution in the world.US Constitution

Big difference is that the US is not the same country as it was in 1789.Population over 300 million50 StatesWorld leaderUS Constitution

1st Method: Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used 26/27)

Amendment Process

2nd Method: Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)21st Amendment:Congress felt conventions would reflect peoples views better than state legislatures.

Amendment Process3rd Method: Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)4th Method: Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)

Amendment ProcessMore than 10,000 joint resolutions have been proposed to Congress since 1789.Only 33 have been sent to states.Failed Resolutions:Equal Rights AmendmentForbid abolishing slavery

Proposed Amendments

12th Amendment Change in Electoral College procedure: 1 vote for President and 1 vote for Vice PresidentReason: Election of 1800 ended in a tie between members of same political party.13th AmendmentAbolish Slavery 14th AmendmentEqual citizenship and protection under law15th AmendmentNo denial of right to vote based on race

Civil War Amendments

18th Amendment26th AmendmentProhibition of selling, manufacturing , transporting alcohol.Minimum voting age no higher than 18.Other Amendments

Many changes have been made in the Constitution which have not inv0lved the Amendment process.There are (5) ways this change can happen.

Constitutional Change

Congress has been a major agent of constitutional change in two important ways:passed laws to spell out some of the Constitutions brief provisions added to the Constitution by the way it has used many of its powers

#1 Basic Legislation

Judiciary Act of 1789Presidential SuccessionAllows for Congress to set up lower federal courts.Constitution says Vice-President takes over for President ; but Congress decides after that.Examples for Congress

The manner in which various Presidents have used their powers has also contributed to the growth of the Constitution.Power to declare war:Congress has this power; but every president has used military without Congressional Declaration of War.#2 Executive Action

Define: pact made by the President directly with the head of a Foreign government.Treaty = agreement with foreign country approved by Congress.Executive agreements are used more often:WHY? treaties are more cumbersome.Executive Agreements

The nations courts interpret and apply the Constitution in many cases they hear.Marbury v. Madison

#3 Court Decisions

No mention of political parties in the Constitution; yet they have been a major source of constitutional change.Most Framers were opposed to political parties, but they have shaped the way are government operates.#4 Party Practices

Neither the Constitution nor law provided for the nomination of a candidate for president.Electoral College Body that makes formal selection of PresidentWhat role do parties play in Congress? Much of the business is organized and conducted based on the political parties The President makes appointments with an eye on party politics.

Political Parties: Examples

Unwritten custom may be as strong as written law, and many customs have developed in our governmental system. There are many examples of this#5 Custom

The Cabinet (advisory body to President) is made up of the heads of the 15 executive departmentsCustom established the precedent that the vice-president became president when there was a death in the office What ended this custom?The 25th AmendmentSenatorial CourtesyPresident will ask senators from a state about a presidential appointee from that state.Custom for Presidents to serve (2) terms:22nd Amendment

Examples of Custom


A system of government in which a written constitution divides the powers of government on a territorial basis between a central, or national, government and several regional governments usually called states or provinces.Federalism

The Constitution provides for a division of powers between the National Government and the States .The 10th Amendment:Gives powers to states not given to Federal government in Constitution.Federalism and the Constitution

The major strength of Federalism:It allows local actions in matters of local concern and national action in matters of wider concern.Strength of Federalism

The National Government is a government of delegated powers:powers granted to it in the Constitution. There are (3) distinct types:ExpressedImpliedInherent

Powers of National Government

Expressed Powers (or enumerated powers)Powers that are spelled, expressly, out in the Constitution.Collect taxesRegulate commerceRaise armed forcesDeclare warFix standards/weights

Expressed Powers

Powers not expressly stated, but are reasonably suggested (or implied) by the expressed powers.Article I Section of 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws that are necessary and proper. This is often called the elastic clause WHY?

Implied Powers

Elastic Clause Over time, the clause has been STRETCHED to cover so much.These are powers that national governments have historically possessed.Few in number: regulate immigrationdeport undocumented aliensacquire territoriesgrant diplomatic recognitionprotect the nation.

Inherent Powers

The Constitution denies the National government certain powers (3 ways):

Powers Denied

Some powers are expressly denied.Examples:Levy taxes on exportsDeny freedomsConduct illegal searchesDeny speedy trial (1) Expressly Denied

Powers denied because they are not mentioned in the Constitution:Public SchoolsMarriage/divorce lawsSet up local governments(2) Silence

Some powers are denied to the National Government because of the federal system itself Cant get rid of the federal system by destroying the states.

(3) Federal System

Reserved to StatesDenied to StatesPowers not given to the National Government are NOT denied to the states. Why does this make the states so powerful?This power is vast and can have a HUGE impact on lives of people.

Cannot:enter into any treaty, alliance or confederationprint -coin moneydeprive anyone of life, liberty or property without due process.

State PowersExclusive powers can only be exercised by the National Government, not by States under any circumstances. Coin Money Make treaties with foreign statesLay import dutiesExclusive Powers

Concurrent powers are those powers that both the National Government and the States. Concurrent Powers

The Framers put the Supremacy Clause (Article VI Section 2) in the Constitution. Importance of?Clearly states the Constitution stands above all other forms of law in the United States

Supremacy Clause

The Supreme Court is the umpire in the federal system.McCulloch v Maryland:Dispute between Federal Bank and state of Maryland.Court ruled in Federal Government favor.Supreme Court + Federalism

National Government + the States

Obligation to States The Constitution places several obligations on the National Government for the benefit of the States:

The Constitution requires that the National Government make sure that states have a Republican Form of Government