The Structure of the Constitution


I. The Basic Structure of the Constitution


A.     The Constitution is divided into 3 parts

1.      Preamble

a.       The preamble is the introduction to the Constitution.

b.      The preamble is the “We the People” part of the



2.      Articles

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)

3)      Article III – explains the judicial branch (Supreme


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.


3.      Amendments

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)

      a)  13th Amendment – made slavery illegal in the U.S.

      b)  14th Amendment – all Americans are entitled to be

           treated equally by the laws of the U.S. – created

           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. 

                   (Triangle CHART!!!!!!!!!)


                            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

(1) tax

(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 III)

                                 1)  judicial review” – the power the Supreme Court has to

                                       decide if a law passed by Congress, or a Presidential act,

                                       is constitutional.






REVIEW                                                         Name:

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

appropriate                                impeach

constituents                               due process of law

citizen                                       naturalization                            



MAIN IDEAS: Use the textbook, class notes, and handouts to answer the following

questions in a complete sentence. 


  1. The Constitution is divided into 3 parts.  List the 3 parts of the Constitution.
  2. What term is used to describe the part of the Constitution that begins with the words,

       “We the People of the United States … ”?

  1. Which part of the government is explained by each of the following articles of the

             Constitution?: Article I, Article II, Article III

  1. What does the “Supremacy Clause” of the Constitution say?
  2. What are the first 10 amendments to the Constitution called?
  3. When was the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution?
  4. Which rights are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution?
  5. List the amendments that protect the following rights:  “right to bear arms”, protection

      form search and seizure, right to a speedy trial, protection from “cruel or unusual


  1. What is the purpose of the Bill of Rights?
  2. List and explain the “Civil War Amendments”.   
  3. Explain each of the following amendments: 16, 19, 22, 25, 26
  4. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
  5. Explain separation of powers.
  6. Explain checks and balances.  Give an example.
  7. What is the purpose of separation of powers and checks and balances?
  8. List the “houses” of Congress.
  9. How do we determine the number of representatives from each state in the House of Representatives?
  10. How many senator does each state have?
  11. How many branches make up the federal government?  List each branch
  12. What is the “main power” for each branch of the national government?
  13. Which person or group makes up each of the following branches of the government?: 

      legislative branch, executive branch, judicial branch

  1. What term is used to describe the President’s advisors in the executive branch?
  2. Which group has the final authority (or the most power) in our government?
  3. Who is considered to be “The Father of the Constitution”? 
  4. How are amendments added to the Constitution?
  5. Why are juries a part of our legal system?
  6. What are your duties as a citizen in the United States?
  7. What are your responsibilities as a citizen in the United States?
  8. Explain why responsible citizenship important.  Give an example of responsible





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

page 219:


National or Enumerated Powers


State or Reserved Powers


Concurrent or Shared Powers