We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ~ Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America. (Spelling and writing is same as the hand-written engrossed copy maintained in the National Archives)
As controversies surrounding current political figures and legislative practices that affect American rights and freedoms have become more prevalent, it is natural and necessary to turn to the Constitution, the bedrock of our entire system of government and what our Commander-in-Chief is sworn to uphold, and search out its original meaning and intent. I have however, been amazed at the amount of both political figures and private citizens that do not understand the Constitution of the United States; furthermore may have no idea what is even in the document. Congressman Phil Hare made quite a public showing of just such ignorance. I myself have not always known what the Constitution truly said. But with these controversies abounding and in need of discussion, many individuals can become so impassioned on a point, that they will say/write things that are untrue simply because they heard it second hand from a “reliable” source, without checking facts for themselves. This can be harmful to the very ideal that they are trying to promote.
I have witnessed this many times and so this particular blog is dedicated to all things Constitutional, and is an educational run-down of what is in our Constitution. It is my intention to not only provide understanding about the Constitution, but also to encourage all Americans to acquire a copy of The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, the Federalist Papers, and our Constitution, and to study them and become intimately acquainted with them, for only then can we truly discuss them in truth with knowledge.
The Articles of Confederation is the document that served as our country’s first constitution and was drawn up by the Continental Congress in 1777 and adopted in 1781. The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and first Chief Justice John Jay to advocate the ratification of the Constitution. These articles provide first-hand interpretation of the Framers true intent, philosophy, and motivation for the forming and writing of the Constitution.
So, class is now in session, attention please!
The Constitution is the highest law of our land (as stated in Article 6), sets the framework for governmental principles, and provides protection for American citizens. It is made up of the Preamble (which has no force of law, rather explains the “why” of the new Constitution), seven Articles, most of which are subdivided into sections, signatures of the delegates, and twenty-seven Amendments.
Article one of the Constitution establishes the Legislative branch of government, and its sections discuss the rights and responsibilities of the Legislature, as well as modes of operation.
Article two establishes the Executive branch of government and its sections reveal the powers and limits therein.
Article three establishes the Judicial Branch of government and its sections establishes the Supreme Court, guarantees trial by jury, and also defines treason.
Article four concerns the individual states, says that each state is to honor other states laws (ie, if a couple is married in Colorado, they are still married in Wisconsin; if a person is convicted of a crime in Ohio, they are guilty in Main, etc), deals with new states, and ensures a Republican form of government.
Article five details the amending of the Constitution.
Article six concerns the United States itself. It guarantees that the United States under the Constitution would assume all debts and contracts entered into by the United States under the Articles of Confederation. It sets the Constitution and all laws and treaties of the United States to be the supreme law of the country, and requires all officers of the nation and individual states to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States and the Constitution when taking office.
Article seven details the method of ratification.
This part of the Constitution was signed on September 17th 1787 by thirty-nine of the forty-two delegates still present when it was finished. Originally, the Preamble, Articles with subdivisions, and signatures were all there was within the Constitution. This was ratified on June 21st, 1788.
Amending is the act of correcting, making better, straight or right. The process for amending the Constitution was spelled out in the above mentioned Article Five. The first ten Amendments to the Constitution were ratified on December 15th 1791, and this process would happen only 17 more times between then and May 7th 1992.
The Constitution holds 27 Amendments. The 1st ten Amendments were all adopted at the same time and are collectively known as The Bill of Rights. These are: (1) Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression; (2) Right to Bear Arms; (3) Quartering of Soldiers (prohibits, in peacetime, the quartering of soldiers in private homes without the owner’s consent); (4) guards against unreasonable Searches and Seizures; (5) Trial and Punishment says that you can’t be charged for a crime unless by grand jury or if a document is issued by a grand jury, except in military cases in time of war. Also guarantees that you cannot be tried twice for the same crime or made to testify against yourself. Compensation for Takings says that there is a due process for if the state tries to take your property and if they can take it, they must compensate fairly; (6) Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses; (7) Trial by Jury in Civil Cases as long as the amount of money in question exceeds twenty dollars (back then $20 was a fortune!); (8) Cruel and Unusual Punishment cannot be inflicted; (9) Construction of Constitution means that the Bill of Rights does not preclude the existence of other not specifically stated rights of the people; (10) Powers of the States and People states that any powers not delegated nor prohibited to the United States by the Constitution, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
Amendment (11) dealt with Judicial limits – ratified in 1795; (12) with choosing President/Vice President – ratified in 1804; (13) was the abolition of slavery – ratified in 1865; (14) dealt with citizenship rights – ratified in 1868; (15) assured ability to vote regardless of race – ratified in 1870; (16) was status of income tax clarified – ratified in 1913; (17) dealt with the election of the Senate -ratified in 1913; (18) abolished liquor during the prohibition – ratified in 1919 (repealed in 1933); (19) granted women the right to vote – ratified in 1920; (20) defines Presidential and Congressional terms – ratified in 1933; (21) Amendment eighteen was repealed – ratified in 1933; (22) defined Presidential term limits – ratified in 1951; (23) discussed the Presidential vote for District of Columbia – ratified in 1961; (24) the Poll Tax was Barred – ratified in 1964; (25) defined succession in case of Presidential disability – ratified in 1967; (26) the voting age was set to 18 years – ratified in 1971; and (27) limiting Congressional pay increases – ratified in 1992.
The Amendments complete the Constitution.
This is not a meant to be a complete documentary on the Constitution, so get a copy and study! As lovers of freedom, We the People should be intimately familiar with our Constitution. Discernment is essential in today’s political debates and we can truly know what is right only if we hold the Constitution as the basis and foundation of American law and liberty.
Here is a link to a profound clip from the movie “Protocol”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xb-BMCKB_TB0 As Sunny Davis says, “I’m responsible…I’m We the People, and you’re We the People…so (they’re) going to have to watch out for me, ’cause I’m going to be watching all of (them)…like a hawk!”