Constitution Notes

Constitution Notes
Quick and Painless!
Or maybe long and painful?
The US Constitution was
written by infallible people,
from all walks of life, who
knew everything about the
future of the country and the
world, and who possessed
perfect answers to all of life’s
The world never changes,
our country is exactly the
same today as it was when it
was founded, people never
get smarter, no one knows
any more today than the first
humans who existed nearly
200,000 years ago.
True or False?
Why am I asking you this seemingly stupid question?
law of
the land!
Adopted on September 17, 1787, by
the Constitutional Congress in Philly.
The main author was
James Madison
After ratification in eleven states
(only needed nine) it went into
effect on March 4, 1789.
The Preamble of the Constitution
• “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.”
• The purpose of the Preamble was simply to explain
why they were creating a national government.
Articles I, II, and III…
Separation of Powers
• Legislative
– Congress: House of Reps. & Senate
• Executive
– President and the President’s peoples
• Judicial
– The Supreme Court and so on
Checks and balances!
Separation of Powers
• Legislative – makes laws
– Senate: 2 from each state
• 6-year term
– House of Representatives: based on population
• 2-year term
• (5 slaves count as 3 people: Compromise!)
– Bicameral legislature
• (compromise due to conflict over representation)
– Implied v. Direct powers
• Direct = Declare war, Ability to tax, etc.
• Implied = Set a minimum wage, etc.
The Necessary and Proper Clause
• Also known as “The Elastic Clause”
– Congress (Legislative branch) shall have power to
make all laws which shall be necessary and proper
Separation of Powers
• Executive – enforces laws
– Chief executive: President
4-year term
Elected by the Electoral College
Must be a “natural born citizen” (born in the US)
– President’s cabinet
– Law enforcement: FBI
Separation of Powers
• Judicial – interprets laws and provides trials
– Supreme Court: states whether laws are
• 9 Supreme Court Justices
• Life-long term
• Appointed by President
– Appellate court: hears appeals from district courts
– District court: tries people who break federal laws
Articles I, II, and III,
• Authority is divided between a central
governing authority and constituent political
units (such as states or provinces).
• Remember the circles?
Federalists v. Anti-Federalists
• Federalists wanted a strong national
• Anti-Federalists were afraid of giving the
national government too much power
Judicial Review
• Legislative and executive actions are subject
to review (and possible invalidation) by the
– In other words, the courts can decide whether or
not the government’s actions are constitutional
– Established in Marbury v. Madison
Limited Government
• The national government is only allowed the
powers given to it by the Constitution; not
supreme power
• Intervention in personal liberties and the
economy is supposed to be minimal
Popular Sovereignty
• “We the people…” !
• Government is legitimate only so far as it is
supported by the consent of “the people”
• “The people” are the source of all political
– Of course, at the time, “the people” excluded
most of the population, such as women, African
Americans, Native Americans, those lacking
sufficient property, and children. But we have
come a long way since then!!!
Article V: Amendments!
• Additions and alterations can be made to the
Upcoming: The Bill of Rights
• After much debate, the
compromise that finally resulted
in the Anti-Federalists going
along with the ratification of the
Constitution was the promise to
add a Bill of Rights.

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