An Outline of the Constitution

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An Outline of the Constitution. The Constitution sets out the basic principles upon which government in the United States was built. The Constitution is a fairly brief document.
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An Outline of the Constitution
  • The Constitution sets out the basic principles upon which government in the United States was built.
  • The Constitution is a fairly brief document.
  • The Constitution is organized into eight sections: the Preamble and seven articles. The original document is followed by 27 amendments.
  • Articles of the Constitution Three of the Basic Principles
  • 1. The principle of popular sovereignty asserts that the people are the source of any and all government power, and government can exist only with the consent of the governed.
  • 2. The principle of limited government states that government is restricted in what it may do, and each individual has rights that government cannot take away.
  • Constitutionalism (govt. must conduct itself according to the Constitution)
  • Rule of Law (Govt. & its officers are always subject to the law and never above it)
  • Three Basic Principles 3. Separation of powers is the principle in which the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government are three independent and coequal branches of government. More of the Basic Principles
  • Checks and balances is the system that allows the legislative, executive, and judicial branches to check, or restrain, the actions of one another.
  • The principle of judicial review consists of the power of a court to determine the constitutionality of a governmental action.
  • Federalism is a system of government in which the powers of government are divided between a central government and several local governments.
  • S E C T I O N 2Formal Amendment
  • What are the different ways to formally amend, or change the wording of, the Constitution?
  • How many times has the Constitution been amended?
  • What is the Bill of Rights?
  • Amending the Constitution
  • The Constitution provides for its own amendment—that is, for changes in its written words.
  • Article V sets out two methods for the proposal and two methods for the ratification of constitutional amendments, creating four possible methods of formal amendment.
  • Formal Amendment Process
  • The four different ways by which amendments may be added to the Constitution are shown here:
  • Amendments to the Constitution Collectively, the first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.They set out many of our basic freedoms. S E C T I O N 3Informal Amendment
  • How has basic legislation changed the Constitution over time?
  • What powers do the executive branch and the courts have to amend the Constitution?
  • What role do party politics and custom have in shaping the Federal Government?
  • Informal Amendment Processes Informal amendment is the process by which over time many changes have been made in the Constitution which have not involved any changes in its written word. The informal amendment process can take place by: (1) the passage of basic legislation by Congress; (2) actions taken by the President; (3) key decisions of the Supreme Court; (4) the activities of political parties; and (5) custom. Basic Legislation by Congress
  • Congress passing laws
  • Adding “flesh to the bones” of the Constitution
  • Ex: Constitution provides for “Supreme Court and any necessary courts”… other courts have been added
  • Ex: Constitution creates the President & Vice President
  • Today over 14 Executive Departments
  • Executive Action
  • Presidential actions have produced a number of important informal amendments, such as the use of the military under the power of commander in chief.
  • An executive agreement is a pact made by the President directly with the head of a foreign state.
  • Court Decisions
  • The nation’s courts, most importantly the United States Supreme Court, interpret and apply the Constitution in many cases they hear.
  • Party Practices
  • The constitution does not create political parties, however we have them today
  • Parties guide much of American government
  • Parties elect people to run for President, which is not written in the constitution…an example of an informal amendment
  • Congressional work usually happens along party lines
  • 1. Ex) Iraq…Democrats don’t like it, Republicans support it
  • 2. However, the constitution does not create political parties or any other of their processes
  • Custom
  • Much the same as tradition
  • Not a written rule, but followed much like one
  • Running for more than two terms as President prior to the 22nd amendment in 1951
  • Presidents followed it until FDR decided to run for a third and fourth term
  • Senatorial Courtesy – People appointed by the President must be confirmed by the Senate.
  • If the President’s party member(s) from the state involved agree with the appointee, the Senate usually respects their wishes and confirms that person.
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