The Bill of Rights
First 10 Amendments of the US Constitution
Introduced by James Madison and First US Congress in 1789
Limits the power of the federal government of the US, protecting all citizens, residents and visitors on US territory. Protects:
Freedom of speech, religion
The right to keep and bear arms
Freedom of assembly, petition
Prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, and compelled self-incrimination
The Constitution – Generally
1. Separation of Powers: separation at the national level that creates checks and balances which are designed to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful. 2. Federalism: Simultaneous federal/national and state/local governments; 2 levels of sovereignty operating at the same time over the people (viable national government that can behave effectively for all of the people, yet the benefits of diversity and decentralization).
In looking at any question regarding government action, consider the following: 1. What part of government gets to take what actions?
2. Is the government branch taking the action constitutionally permitted to do so?
Functions of the Constitution:
Describes the responsibilities of the centralized government Enumerates powers to be exercised
Protects the rights of the individual
Separation of Power—creates a national government; separates power among 3 branches—division of power was designed to create a system of checks and balances. BLUEPRINT Federalism—Divides power between the federal and state government: Supremacy Clause sets up a hierarchical relationship b/w the federal government and the statesstate and local laws are void if they conflict with federal law. 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Federalism limits the ability of states to impose burdens on each other (ex: states can’t regulate/tax commerce in a manner that places an undue burden on interstate commerce.) (3) Protects individual liberties
The Constitution’s protections of individual liberties apply ONLY to the government (private conduct generally doesn’t have to comply with the Constitution—except the 13th Amend with prohibits slavery applies directly to private behavior.) The due process clause of the 14th Amendment made Bill of Rights apply to states.
Methods for Changing the Constitution:
Amendment: requires 2/3 vote of Congress to propose the amendment, becomes effective when ratified by 3/4 of the states. (all 27 amendments of the Constitution were done this way) 3 major types: amendments that overrule specific Supreme Court decisions, amendments to correct problems in the original Constitution, and amendments to reflect changes in social attitudes. Other type: amendments to expand/change electoral process.
Constitutional Convention: 2/3 of the states could call for Congress to convene a constitutional convention and any amendments proposed would then have to get ¾ of the states to agree in order for it to be ratified (this method has never been used!)
Article I: Legislative Branch
§ 1: grants Congress legislative powers
§ 8: list powers of Congress
Clause 1: Spending Clause
Clause 3: Commerce Clause
Clause 18: Necessary and Proper Clause
§ 9: limits the power of Congress
§ 10: limits the power of the States (no State shall enter into or pass any law impairing the obligations of contracts)
Article II: Executive Branch and the President
§ 1: grants President executive power
§ 2: lists the President’s powers
Clause 1: identifies President as the Commander in Chief
Clause 2: power to make treaties with the consent of the Senate
Article III: Judicial Branch
§ 1: judicial power vest with the Supreme Court and in lower courts...