U. S. Government: Democracy In Action

Chapter 3: The Constitution

Chapter Overviews

The Constitution was created more than 200 years ago to establish a stable government and the rights to which all U.S. citizens are entitled, yet few people know and understand it. Chapter 3 provides an outline of the Constitution and discusses how it affects citizens.

Section 1 introduces the basic structure of the Constitution. Key terms for understanding the Constitution—such as article, jurisdiction, supremacy clause, amendment, popular sovereignty, separation of powers, checks and balances, veto, and judicial review—are discussed. The founders wanted to prevent any one branch of the government from obtaining too much power.

Section 2 deals with the three branches of government and how they work together. The Constitution gives specific powers to each of the three branches in order to prohibit any one branch from enjoying too much power. Each of the three branches maintains some control over the other two. The three branches of government are the legislative (lawmaking) branch, the executive (presidential) branch, and the judicial (legal) branch.

Section 3 introduces the amendment process. The Constitution was designed to adapt to the changing times while still preserving the basic forms and principles of government. Amending the Constitution involves proposing the amendment on a national level and ratifying it on state level. In order for an amendment to be approved, it must be ratified by a three-fourths majority of the states.

Section 4 deals with the amendments of the Constitution and explains their importance. Key terms such as probable cause, search warrant, arrest warrant, due process of law, eminent domain, and lame duck are introduced. When the Constitution was first approved, the Bill of Rights, or first ten amendments, only applied on the national level; however, through Supreme Court rulings almost all of its provisions now apply to the states.

US Government: Democracy In Action
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