Whether you're much into politics or not, whether you know any US Constitution facts or not, it's hard to go day to day without hearing something about Constitutional rights, the Bill of Rights, or a legislative bill in either the House or the Senate.
In order to teach American Government to your kids and others, you need to start with good, solid American government information and Constitution facts. Our goal is that you will know more about the history of the Constitution than when you first visited us.
Let's start at the beginning.
In 1787, before there was a United States of America, the Continental Congress invited each of the 13 colonies to send representatives to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Their plan was to draft a document to govern the colonies effectively. Twelve states sent a total of 55 delegates. Rhode Island declined to send anyone.
The men worked together all summer to draft the Constitution. The man who actually wrote it, meaning he put the pen to the paper, is Gouverneur Morris. He contributed far more than just ink, however. The initial draft of the Constitution had 23 articles. Morris was largely responsible for paring it down to 7, and gave it the style and arrangement we know today, including the preamble.
Although 55 delegates were involved in creating our Constitution, only 39 men signed it. Not all 55 men were present the entire time, and these 39 were the ones present at the conclusion of the writing.
A few of the more well-known Constitution signers are Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and George Washington.
The US Constitution is the highest law in the United States. And although our country is relatively young, no other country's constitution has been in effect as long as ours. That's pretty amazing when you think about it and a great testament to the men who labored together one summer to create our Constitution.
The Constitution is broken into seven different articles which outline our governmental structure. They were designed with what we call 'checks and balances' so that no one branch of the government can have too much power and take over. They are able to check each other and keep the power balanced.
The government is broken into three sections: federal, state, and local. And then each of those levels has three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
Our federal government structure is made of the executive branch (President), the legislative branch (Congress, which is made up of both the House of Representatives and the Senate), and the judicial branch (Supreme Court). There is more to each branch, which we'll cover elsewhere, but that is the general outline.
Next, each state and local government has their own executive, legislative and judicial branches.
The US Constitution was written over several months in the summer 1787. A few months later, it went through the ratification process, being accepted by the colonies, which spanned the latter half of 1787 and into 1788.
The 55 delegates, who became some our many Founding Fathers, met in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to work out the details.
Initially, the 13 colonies of what is now the United States were under British rule, subject to King George III. Unhappy with the oppressive nature of the King, a group of five men drafted a document to the King, declaring their independence from Britain. This document is the Declaration of Independence, written in 1776.
Now without a formal governmental structure, the Continental Congress invited the state delegates to come together and devise one ' The United States Constitution.
The framers (writers) of the Constitution knew it wasn't perfect and therefore added measures by which changes could be made, called amendments. Our Bill of Rights is a series of 10 amendments added in 1791. Only 17 more changes have been made since then for a total of 27 amendments to the United States Constitution.
December 23, 1775
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