October 10, 2012
Bill of Rights and Amendments Paper
The Constitution is the highest form of law in the United States. All other laws come from the Constitution in one way or another. The Constitution provides the foundation for the government of the United States. It creates the most important branches of government which include; Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court. Even though each state has its own constitution that sits as the highest law for the state — the United States Constitutions over powers the state Constitutions, which is why the US Constitution is the highest form of law. Over time, a few things have been added to the Constitution through some form of interpretation. The important changes made are that we cherish and still abide by today are called amendments, which are unalienable rights that are given to the people. By listing these rights, they forever remain ours, and it is illegal for the government to violate those rights. As of 2006, there are 27 amendments to the Constitution. Not all of them have to do with rights, but many of them do. The first ten amendments, in particular, have the special name; known as the Bill of Rights. From May to September 1787, the men, known as the Framers, met in Philadelphia and discussed what should be written in the Constitution. The United States was a brand new country at the time, and its government was not taken seriously by other countries, so to change that, nobles and leaders got together and held a meeting to decide of a new way of running the country. Some of the people at this meeting, called the Convention, are famous to us today, including George Washington, James Madison and Ben Franklin. The men responsible for creating the famous document, also known as Framers, came from all over the country- which at that time was made up of only 13 states. All different states had different ideas of what the new government should accomplish, and they had numerous debates to come up with a plan that everyone could abide by. It is said that the Constitution was born in compromise, because only by compromising could all the disagreements be resolved. Ben Franklin himself said that he was not sure if the plan was perfect, but he did believe it was close to perfection. When the Constitution was written, the Framers knew their creation was not perfect. They knew that other people would have good ideas for the Constitution, that future generations would make their own changes. They wanted to make it possible to change the Constitution without future generations needing to resort to a revolution They made it so that it isn’t difficult to change, but not easy to change either. The Framers added an amendment process. An amendment to the Constitution is a change that can add to the Constitution or change an older part of it. An amendment can even overturn a previous amendment, as the 21st did to the 18th. There are a few methods to amend the Constitution, but the most common is to pass an amendment through the Congress, on a two-thirds vote. After that, the amendment goes to the states, and if three-quarters of the states pass the amendment, it is considered a part of the Constitution — it has been ratified. One of the biggest reasons a lot of people opposed the original Constitution was because it lacked a bill of rights. A bill of rights is a list of rights that belong to the people that the government is not allowed to break. Some of these rights might sound familiar: the right of free speech, the right to practice your own religion, and the right to be silent if the police accuse you of a crime. The original Constitution had no bill of rights. Many of the Framers did not think it was necessary. But to get the Constitution to pass in some of the states, promises were made to add a bill of rights once the new government was up and running. After the new government started to meet, Congress proposed the Bill of Rights. A list of twelve changes was sent to the states, and a few years later, in 1791, ten of those changes were accepted by enough of the states that they were added to the Constitution. These ten changes are called the "Bill of Rights." Other changes to the Constitution are discussed below. The last change to the Constitution was made in 1992. The 27th Amendment is actually one of the two left-over amendments from 1791. It is very unusual for an amendment to take that long to be accepted, but it is possible. Some, like the 26th Amendment, are accepted very quickly, in just 100 days. Most, though, take a little over a year to be ratified.
The Constitution is a document that dates back to 1787 and was written by a group of men, mostly nobles. The over 200 year old document is stored at the National Archives in Washington D.C. in display for anyone to see.