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The US Constitution: Preamble, Articles and Amendments

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  • 0:53 Article I
  • 2:03 Article II
  • 3:17 Article III
  • 3:45 Review Articles I-III
  • 4:19 Articles IV-VII
  • 5:31 The Bill of Rights
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clint Hughes

Clint has taught History, Government, Speech Communications, and Drama. He has his master's degree in Instructional Design and Technology.

The U.S. Constitution is one of the most important documents in history. It establishes the government of the United States, and its first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, assures every U.S. citizen the rights we have all come to hold dear.

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, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.'

Unless you are in the fourth grade, you will probably never be asked to recite this again, but it is important for people to understand the stated purpose of the Constitution.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, we will go over the original seven articles of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This is a great deal of information. For the sake of student sanity, we will mainly focus on a clear and simple understanding of the first three articles, which form the three branches of the U.S. government: the legislative, executive, and the judicial. Then we'll more quickly cover the rest.

Article I

Article I of the Constitution establishes the legislative branch of our government. This is the Congress. The Constitution establishes two houses for the Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The primary purpose of the Congress is to make laws.

In the House, representatives are elected every two years, and must be at least 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for seven years, and must reside in the state from which they are chosen. The House has the sole power of impeachment - this means that the House can put the president on trial for breaking the law.

In the Senate, senators are elected every six years, must be at least 30 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for nine years, and must reside in the state from which they are chosen. The vice president of the United States is the president of the Senate, but the VP has no vote unless there's a tie that needs to be broken.

The Senate holds the trial if the House chooses to impeach the president. The punishment can only go as far as throwing the president out of office, and barring them from holding other government offices. According to Article I, it is also Congress' job to raise money, so that means tax, and pay U.S. debts, and it is Congress' job to provide for defense, which means maintain the military.

Article II

Article II of the Constitution establishes the executive branch of the government - that means the president. The president's job is to enforce the laws established by Congress. The president is elected for a four year term and must be a natural born U.S. citizen as outlined under Section 1, Clause 5. However, it is important to note that there is a statute built into the Constitution that allows for foreign born Americans to run for president. The following must be true: the individual must be born to at least one parent who was born on U.S. soil, and the individual had to be born within a possession of the United States.

A great example was Arizona Senator John McCain who ran for president in 2008. McCain was born in Panama. Fortunately, he was born on an American air base inside of the Panama Canal Zone, which just happened to be an American possession at the time of his birth.

Additionally, to be president, a person also has to be at least 35 years old, and must have been residing in the U.S. for a period 14 years. The Constitution is very vague as to whether the 14 years must be consecutive or in general. The president is the Commander in Chief of the military, has power to make treaties (with the consent of the Senate), has the power to pardon, and appoint ambassadors, judges, and other officials, but these appointments must be approved by Congress.

Article III

The judicial branch of the government is established by the third article of the Constitution. The job of the judicial branch of the government is to interpret the law. The judicial branch of the government is made up of the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. The Supreme Court deals with cases involving Constitutional law, treaties, ambassadors, and cases outside of state jurisdiction, like maritime cases, cases between states, or cases between individuals and another state. Judges appointed to the Supreme Court serve for life.

Review Articles I - III

So, the first three articles of the constitution establish the branches of the U.S. government: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. This brilliant system is designed to divide the powers of the government so that each branch keeps the others in check. The Congress makes laws, but the president can veto those laws, and if the president does sign those laws, the Courts can find those laws unconstitutional and render them void. Congress can override a presidential veto, but the courts can still knock them down. If the courts keep rendering laws void, the Congress can amend the constitution under Article V, which we will address shortly.

Articles IV - VII

We will now take a look at articles four through seven:

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