The Basic Principles in the Constitution How the U. S. Constitution is built The Government

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The Basic Principles in the Constitution

How the U.S. Constitution is built

The Government 

  • The Constitution is the frame for our government as it is today

  • The Constitution is the second national government created for the U.S.

    • The first national government that was created was called The Articles of Confederation

  • The Constitution creates all the rules for how the U.S. is set up and run from the national level to the local level

The Basic Principles in the Constitution

I. Republicanism: A form of government in which power resides in the people and is exercised by their elected representatives.

II. Federalism: A form of government where there is a division of power between a central government [the federal government] and regional units of government [the states].
III. Separation of powers: The assignment of the lawmaking, law-enforcing, and law-interpreting governmental functions to independent legislative [Congress], executive [the presidency], and judicial [the courts] branches of government.
IV. Checks and balances

  1. The system where each of the branches of government has some scrutiny of, and control over, the

other branches.
B. Examples:

1. Presidential veto of legislation

2. Senate confirmation of presidential treaties
3. Judicial review of legislative and executive actions

V. Limited government

A. Constitutional provisions that work to protect the rights of the people.

B. Examples:

1. Prohibiting Congress from suspending the writ of habeas corpus except during invasion or

2. Prohibiting the Congress and states from passing bills of attainder, which punish people without a

judicial trial.

3. Prohibiting the Congress or the states from passing ex-post facto laws, which punish people or

increase the penalties for acts that were not illegal or not as punishable when committed.

4. Prohibiting the imposition of religious qualification from holding office in the national


5. The Bill of Rights

The Components of the U.S. Constitution
The Bits and Pieces
I. 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. 

The preamble, a single sentence, consists of four elements that form the foundation of our political tradition.

A. It creates a people [We the People of the United States] which was a major departure from the loose

confederation of states under the Articles of Confederation.
B. It explains the reason for the Constitution [in Order to form a more perfect Union] which was an

implied way of saying that the first attempt of governance under the Articles was inadequate.

C. It articulates goals [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]. In other words the goals of the government would be to promote order and freedom.
D. It fashions a government [do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of


II. The Articles

  1. Article I: The legislative article

1. The framers began with the legislative branch when they structured the new government because they thought lawmaking was the most important function of a republic.
2. It is the most detailed and therefore the longest article.
3. It consists of ten sections dealing with -- 

A. The composition and qualifications of congressional members.

B. The elections and constituencies of congressional members.
C. The enumerated powers of Congress.
D. Limitations on the powers of Congress.
E. Limitation on the state governments.

B. Article II: The executive article

1. Sets the president’s term of office.

2. Establishes the procedure for electing a president through the electoral college.
3. Establishes the qualifications for becoming president.
4. Identifies the president’s duties and powers.

a. Commander in Chief of the military

b. Fills vacancies in the court and in the legislative branch
c. Approves or denies laws written by congress
d. Negotiates treaties
e. Is the Head of State

C. Article VI: The supremacy article

1. An important part of this article is the supremacy clause, which asserts that, when they conflict, the

Constitution, national laws, and treaties take precedence over state constitutions and laws.
2. The article also mandates that religion cannot be a qualification for holding government office.
D. Article VII: The Ratification Article 

1. Number of states to ratify the Constitution: This article required that nine of the thirteen states had to

ratify the Constitution to make it the law of the land. New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the


2. Method of ratification: This article stipulated that ratification of the Constitution was to be

accomplished by state conventions, not by state legislatures.

III. The Amendments

A. The U.S. Constitution has only been amended 27 times since its adoption in 1788.

B. The Bill of Rights 1791. The first ten amendments to the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights.
C. These amendments provide protection for some basic guarantees by restraining the national

government from meddling with fundamental rights and civil liberties.

Bill of Rights

Protection of Amendment Amendment

Freedom of Expression 
     No government establishment of religion 
     No government prohibition of religious beliefs 
     No government abridgement of speech 
     No government abridgement of the press 


Freedom of Political Participation 
     No government abridgment of speech 
     No government abridgment of the press 
     No government abridgment of peaceable assembly 
     No government abridgment of the right to petition government to redress grievances 


Right to Privacy 
     No government prohibition of religious beliefs
     No quartering of military troops in private homes without the owner's consent
     No unreasonable search and seizures without a warrant justified by probable cause


Rights in Criminal Proceedings  
     No requirement to testify against oneself in criminal proceedings
     Serious crimes require a grand jury indictment 
     No double jeopardy for the same offense 
     No loss of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law 
     No government seizure of private property for public use without just compensation 
     Criminal defendants have the right
     to have a speedy public trial by an impartial jury 
     to be informed of the accusation 
     to confront prosecution witnesses 
     to obtain witnesses in their behalf 
     to have legal assistance
     Civil law suits can be tried by juries if controversy is more than $20
     No excessive fines or bail
     No cruel or unusual punishment 




Other Protected Rights 
     States have the right to maintain a well-regulated militia
     The people have the right to keep and bear arms
     Protection for unspecified rights not included in Amendments
     The states or the people have reserve powers not given to the national
     government or denied to the states 


Other Amendments deal with

1. perceived deficiencies in the structure of government

a. term limits for president

b. popular election of senators

2. public policy

a. creation of national income tax
b. prohibition of alcohol
c. repeal of prohibition

3. political and social equality

a. prohibition of slavery
b. suffrage cannot be denied based on race, color, previous servitude, gender or age

Comparing the Texas Constitution and the U.S. Constitution 

Texas U.S.

Bill of Rights 

Included in Article I of the Texas Constitution.

The Texas Constitution includes guarantees not included in the U.S. Bill of Rights.

1. Prohibition of discrimination based on sex.
2. Forbids imprisonment for debt.
3. Protects the rights of crime victims.
4. Prohibits the garnishment of wages except for court-ordered child support.

First ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.


The Texas Constitution consists of 17 articles

1. The Bill of Rights

2. The structure of Texas Government
3. Local government
4. Private corporations
5. Public lands and land office
6. Public policy such as education, taxation
7. Impeachment
8. General provisions
9. Amendment

The U.S. Constitution consists of seven articles.


The Texas Constitution has been amended over 400 times in over 100 years.

The U.S. Constitution has only been amended 27 times in over 200 years

Limited Government

  1. Enumerated powers

2. All governmental powers of Texas institutions are enumerated in the Texas Constitution.
3. Implied powers: There is not a necessary and proper clause in the Texas Constitution.
4. Legislative salaries 

Texas legislative pay raises must be approved by the people in the form of a constitutional amendment.

5. Legislative sessions

The Texas legislature meets every other year for only 140 days. This is inappropriate for today’s conditions and requires special sessions to address emergencies, etc.

6. Legislative powers


1. Limited appointment powers. Unlike the president, the Texas governors do not appoint their cabinets. This limits the governor’s ability to lead the executive branch.
2. Limited removal powers. Removal efforts must be approved by the Texas legislature.

1. Enumerated powers

2. All governmental powers of U.S. institutions are enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.

3. Implied powers: There is a necessary and proper clause in the U.S. Constitution.
4. Legislative salaries 

Congressional pay raises are initiated by the Congress.

5. Legislative sessions

The Congress, more or less, is in session year round.

6. Legislative powers


Statutory law vs. Constitutional law

The Texas Constitution is statutory in nature. This requires amendments to address current needs.

The U.S. Constitution is more fundamental and authorizes government to solve problems.

The Judicial Branch

1. Two top appellate courts, one for criminal appeals and one for civil appeals.
2. Numerous layers of courts
3. Terms of office.
4. All members are elected by the people. [The governor, however, can fill vacancies through appointments as approved by the Texas Senate.]
5. Qualifications to hold office.

1. One supreme court

2. Congress has the authority to create the lower courts and determine the makeup of all courts.

3. The president makes all appointments with the approval of the Senate.
4. No terms of office.
5. No qualifications for holding a position.

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