The Structure of the Constitution
I. The Basic Structure of the Constitution
A. The Constitution is divided into 3 parts
a. The preamble is the introduction to the Constitution.
b. The preamble is the “We the People” part of the
a. The Constitution is divided into 7 sections called Articles.
b. Each article explains a part of the Constitution.
c. 3 important articles:
1) Article I – explains the legislative branch (Congress)
2) Article II – explains the executive branch (President)
d. More Important Articles:
1) Article 5 – explains how to add amendments to the
2) Article 6 – called “The Supremacy Clause”; states that
laws made by Congress are superior to state laws; state
laws are not allowed to conflict with national laws.
a. amendment – a formal written change to the Constitution
b. The Constitution has 27 amendments.
c. The first 10 amendments are SPECIAL – they are called:
The Bill of Rights
1) The Bill of Rights lists the rights all citizens have
that the government cannot take away.
2) The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution by
Congress in 1791 (the Constitution was written in
d. Other Important Amendments
1) The Civil War Amendments (c.1865)
13th Amendment – made slavery illegal in the
b) 14th Amendment – all Americans are entitled to be
equally by the laws of the
due process of law.
c) 15th Amendment – former slaves have the same
rights under the Constitution as all other
2) 16th Amendment (1913) – created the income tax
3) 19th Amendment (1920) – gave women the right to vote
4) 22nd Amendment (1952) – limits the President to two
four year terms.
5) 25th Amendment (1967) – Presidential Succession –
created rules to determine who is running the nation
if the President is killed or seriously ill.
6) 26th Amendment (1971) – voting age changed to 18.
B. Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances
1. Separation of Powers
a. Each branch has certain jobs (powers) that the other
branches cannot do.
2. Checks and Balances
a. Each branch has some power over the other branches
b. Example: Congress can pass laws, but the President can
veto the law
*** Who cares??? What is the purpose of Separation of Powers and Checks and
Balances?? Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances were created so
that no one person and no one branch could dominate or take control of the
C. Organization of the Government
1. The federal government is divided into 3 branches.
a. Legislative Branch (ARTICLE I)
1) The main job of the Legislative Branch is to make the laws
a) Congress makes up the legislative branch
(1) Congress is divided into 2 houses (parts: this is called
(a) House of Representatives – the number of
representatives from each state is determined by
the population of the state (proportional
representation); any law that raises or spends
money must begin in the House of Representatives.
(b) Senate – 2 Senators from each state.
(c) Powers of the Legislative Branch
(2) create and regulate money
(3) regulate trade between the states
(4) declare war
(5) raise and support an army
(6) create laws “necessary and proper” to carry out
the Constitution; “Elastic Clause”
(7) impeach the President and Supreme Court judges
(8) pass a law “over” the President’s veto (2/3rds vote)
b. Executive Branch (ARTICLE II)
1) Carries out the nation’s laws and policies
2) Appoint the leaders of the Executive departments (Cabinet)
3) Make treaties with other nations
4) Commander in Chief of the Military
5) Appoint judges to the Supreme Court
6) Veto laws passed by Congress
c. Judicial Branch (ARTICLE
1) “judicial review” – the power the Supreme Court has to
decide if a law passed by Congress, or a Presidential act,
Structure of the Constitution Date:
INSTRUCTIONS: Complete the following assignment on a separate sheet of paper.
VOCABULARY: Provide complete definitions for each of the following terms. Place these definitions into the vocabulary section of your notebook.
preamble domestic tranquility
popular sovereignty republicanism
federalism enumerated powers
reserved powers concurrent powers
amendment judicial review
constituents due process of law
questions in a complete sentence.
People of the
Article I, Article II, Article
form search and seizure, right to a speedy trial, protection from “cruel or unusual
legislative branch, executive branch, judicial branch
Plus these homework questions:
According the Declaration of Independence, what are our “natural rights”?
According to our class notes, what is the purpose of separation of powers and checks
and balances in the Constitution?
List and define the “major principles” in the Constitution. (see chart page 218)
Create a list for each of the following powers in our government using the chart on
National or Enumerated Powers
State or Reserved Powers
Concurrent or Shared Powers