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Chapter 4 - The United States Constitution

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Nathaniel Koehler

on 3 February 2014

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Transcript of Chapter 4 - The United States Constitution

The United States Constitution
Elements of the Constitution
Amending the Constitution
Guiding Principles of the Constitution
Interpreting the Constitution
The Preamble Sets the Purpose
The Articles Establish Our National Government
The Preamble is a single, long sentence that defines the broad purposes of the republican government created by the Constitution.
The Preamble sets various goals for the nation under the Constitution:

Form a more perfect union
Establish justice
Ensure domestic tranquility
provide for the common defense
Promote the general welfare
Secure the blessings of liberty
The main body consists of seven articles:
The first three articles establish the three branches of government - legislative, executive, and judicial.
The four remaining articles cover various subjects, including relations among the states, the supremacy of law, and the amendment process.
Establishes the Legislative Branch
Establishes the Executive Branch
Establishes the Judicial Branch
Concerns Relations Among the States
Describes the Amendment Process
Makes the Constitution the Supreme Law of the Land
Explains the Ratification Process
Full faith and credit
Treatment of citizens
New states and territories
Protection of states
The Amendment Process is Not Easy
The typical amendment process:
1. Amendment is proposed by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress.
2. The Proposed amendment is then sent to the states, where is must be
ratified by by the legislatures of at least three-fourths of the states.

The President has no formal role in the process.
Power lies exclusively with Congress and the states.
Only one provision of the Constitution - the equal representation of states in the Senate - is not open to amendment, as made explicit in Article V.
The First Ten Amendments:
The Bill of Rights
1st Amendment: Basic Freedoms
Freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition
2nd Amendment: Right to Bear Arms
Right to bear arms and form state militias
3rd Amendment: Quartering Soldiers
Bans quartering of troops in private homes during peace-time
4th Amendment: Search and Seizure
Prevents unreasonable search and seizure
5th Amendment: Rights of the Accused
Covers various rights of the accused and eminent domain
6th Amendment: Right to a Fair Trial
Right to a public and speedy trial by a jury in criminal cases
7th Amendment: Civil Trials
Right to a jury in civil cases
8th Amendment: Bail and punishment
Bans excessive bail and punishment
9th Amendment: Rights Retained by the People
Guarantees other rights not listed in the Constitution or Bill of Rights
10th Amendment: States' Rights
Reserves powers for the states and the people
Two Early Amendments Strengthened
The New Federal Government
The Eleventh Amendment, adopted in 1795, protected the states from lawsuits by citizens of other states or foreign countries.
The Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804, changed voting procedures in the Electoral College to separate the vote for president and vice president.
Adopted after George lost a Supreme Court case involving a suit brought by a South Carolina resident.
Became necessary after the 1800 election resulted in an Electoral College tie.
Four Progressive-Era Amendments:
Dealt with Social and Political Reforms
The 16th Amendment allowed Congress to establish an income tax.
The 17th Amendment Provided for the direct election of senators.
The 18th Amendment instituted prohibition, banning the sale of alcohol.
Four Twentieth-Century Amendments
Addressed Governance
The 20th Amendment change the start date of presidential and congressional terms.
The 22nd Amendment limited presidents to two terms.
The 25th Amendment provided for succession to the presidency in case of a president's death or disability and the filling of a vacancy in the office of vice president.
The 27th Amendment - the last to be ratified, in 1992 - was proposed 203 years earlier, along with the Bill of Rights, stating that any pay raise Congress votes for itself cannot go into effect until the next congressional election.
Three Civil Rights-Era Amendments
Extend Voting Rights
Three Civil War-Era Amendments
Extended Rights to African Americans
The 13th Amendment made President Lincoln's emancipation of slaves the law of the land.
The 14th Amendment overturned the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision - which had denied citizenship to African Americans - by making all people born in the United States citizens with equal rights and protections.
The 15th Amendment was passed to protect the voting rights of freedmen during Reconstruction.
The 24th Amendment banned poll taxes, which had been used to keep African Americans from voting in some states.
The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
The equal rights amendment, which was introduced in 1923, and proposed again in 1972, guaranteed equal rights for women, but never gained ratification by three fourths of the states.
Establishing a Limited Government
Absolute power often leads to the abuse of power
Lack of power can result in chaos and instability
The framers tried to make sure that the Constitution gave the government enough power to ensure peace and order, but not so much that its power went unchecked.
Popular Sovereignty
Power lies not with the government or its leaders, but with the people.
The Rule of Law
The American people and their government must abide by a system of laws.
No state may discriminate against the residents of another state.
The Constitution and federal laws hold authority over state and local law.
Separation of Powers - Checks and Balances
Divides power in the national government among three separate branches:
President has veto power over bills passed in Congress.
The only way to remove a president, other members of the executive branch, or federal judges from office is by impeachment
Delegated Powers: powers granted to the national government

Reserved Powers: powers kept by the states

Concurrent Powers: powers shared by the federal and state governments
Commerce Clause: Gives the federal government the power to regulate trade across state lines within the United States and to both regulate and tax foreign trade
An Independent Judiciary
Support the rule of law and preserve government,
"The independence of the judges may be an essential safeguard against the effects of occasional ill humors in society."

- Alexander Hamilton
Protects against abuses of the system by self-interested parties.
Individual Rights
Originally the Anti-Federalists argued that the Constitution did not offer adequate protection for individual rights, and so the Bill of Rights was added to address their concerns.
The first ten amendments are vital to ensuring the protection of each individual's rights.
The Process of Judicial Interpretation
When judges are asked to apply the Constitution to a legal issue, they look to five sources of information:
The text, or exact wording, of the Constitution itself
The original intent of the framers - what they meant or were trying to achieve - when they debated and wrote the Constitution
Court precedent, or the past decisions of the Supreme Court
The practical consequences for society of a particular interpretation
Basic moral and ethical values
Strict Construction:
Looking at the Text
Strict Construction is the literal reading of the Constitution
Often referred to as originalism, it holds that the original language of the Constitution and the intent of the framers must serve as the primary guide to judicial interpretation.
Methods of Interpretation
Loose Construction:
Adapting the Constitution to Today
The flexible reading of the Constitution
Often referred to as interpretiveism, it holds that modern values and social consequences must be taken into account in interpreting the Constitution.
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