The Constitution

The Preamble – 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  and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Of course we are all familiar with those words.  Depending on your age, you may even know by heart the words from Schoolhouse Rock’s version.

On May 14th, 1787, a federal convention met at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. Unlike today where people can travel by car or plane and be somewhere quickly, in the late 1700s, people had to travel by boat, horseback, or by foot to reach Philadelphia.  So, even though the convention first met on May 14th, it wasn’t until May 25th of that same month where enough people were present to have a quorum.  Just like any time where a variety of people join together to discuss something as important as revising the Articles of Confederation, no one could agree completely on every item.  So, what did they do? They had to rewrite the entire thing – and therefore draft an entirely new framework for the growing country to follow.  Who worked on this momentous document?

The men who worked on it were called THE FRAMERS. 

When it came time to ratify the Constitution, only 9 states had to agree for it to pass, but the men decided that ALL must agree or the Constitution would not work.  Two states took a long time to finally decide to join the rest (Rhode Island and North Carolina), but finally all agreed.  One of the biggest arguments revolved around the issue of slavery.  The people who lived in the North wanted no slavery, but the people in the South were afraid of losing it. They wanted each state to have the right to choose on their own.

The Articles:
1.      The Legislative Branch – makes provisions for a Senate and House of Representatives
2.      The Executive Branch – outlines the powers of the President of the United States, how he should be elected, and how often he will be elected.
3.      The Judicial Branch – outlines the powers of the Supreme Court as well as the smaller courts around the country
4.      The States – outlines the powers of each state and its citizens as well as how new states shall enter the union.
5.      Amendments – outlines how new amendments shall be added to the Constitution
6.      Debts, supremacy, and oaths – all debts incurred shall be paid, the constitution shall be the law of the land, and that all who take office shall take an oath to support the constitution.
7.      Ratification – at least 9 states must ratify the Constitution

The Amendments:
1.      Freedom of religion, press, and expression
2.      Right to bear arms
3.      Quartering of soldiers – no soldier shall be quartered in a home without the consent of the owner
4.      Search and seizure – cannot search a home or seize property without just compensation
5.      Trial and punishment – must be properly indicted
6.      Right to a speedy trial, confrontation of witnesses
7.      Trial by jury in civil cases
8.      Cruel and unusual punishment – cannot inflict cruel or unusual punishment
9.      Construction of constitution
10.   Powers of the states and people
11.   Judicial limits
12.   Choosing the president, vice president
13.   Slavery abolished
14.   Citizenship rights
15.   Race no bar to vote
16.   Status of income tax clarified
17.   Senators elected by popular vote
18.   Liquor abolished
19.   Women’s right to vote
20.   Presidential, congressional terms
21.   Repeal of 18th amendment
22.   Presidential term limits
23.   Presidential vote for DC
24.   Poll tax ratified
25.   Presidential disability and succession
26.   Voting age set to 18 years old
27.   Limiting changes to congressional pay

Because the FRAMERS knew the Constitution was not perfect, they included a provision to add amendments.   At first they wanted a Bill of Rights, which they finally got. The ten changes were called “The Bill of Rights”.

After months of closed sessions, the men who gathered finally came up with the Constitution.

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