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MD – American History – Unit 21 – The Constitution – Moodle

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Designed By:
Christian Alas
Created and illustrated By:
Angelo Romero and Camilo Sanabria

The Constitution

The constitution created by the founders of this country has been the highest law of the United States since 1788. It allows the people to elect who will govern them.

It is the source of freedom in this country. It was created to set up courts of justice, to provide defense for the entire country, to insure peace between the states, and to see to the welfare of all the people.

The government is formed by three branches: legislative, judicial, and executive. The three branches of the government were designed to act independently, but at the same time each branch responds to the other two. This is a system of checks and balances. Congress is the law-making body (legislative branch), but the President (executive branch) must sign the bills into law.

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If the President does not approve the law, he may veto it, but Congress can still pass the law. The Supreme Court (judicial branch) has the power to decide the constitutionality of any law passed by Congress (legislative branch).

The President (executive branch) may choose the people he would like to have assisting him as foreign ambassadors and as judges, but the Senate (legislative branch) has to approve the president’s appointments.

If the President or any high government official is accused of a serious crime, the Constitution says they can be impeached (the official accused of a serious crime must go to trial). If he is found guilty, he is removed from office.

At the Convention, the delegates were sure that this Constitution would support a stronger government, but at the same time no one was completely satisfied with the document.

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Thomas Jefferson felt that it needed statements that would establish and guarantee the rights of the people. Many of the delegates felt the same way, so it was promised that the power of amendments would be used to put in place a Bill of Rights.

In 1791, the first ten amendments, or Bill of Rights, were added to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights specifies freedoms people have and that the government cannot take away.

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The First 10 Amendments of the Constitution: (1791)

1. Americans have freedom of:
* Speech – a person can express his opinion.
* Religion – a person can worship in any church.
* Press – a person can report any story.
* Assembly – anyone can call and attend any meetings.

2. Americans have the right to bear arms.

3. Americans cannot be forced to give shelter and food to soldiers.

4. Americans may not be arrested or their property searched without a good reason.

5. Americans charged with a crime have certain rights.

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6. Americans have the right to a trial soon after being charged with a crime.
7. Americans have the right of a trial by jury (a group of their peers who decide if the person is guilty or not).
8. Americans have the right to fair punishment for crimes they have committed (no cruel or unusual punishment).
9. The government cannot take away the rights of any person born in the United States.
10. The states have certain special powers apart from those of the federal government.

Amending the Constitution is a slow process. Three-fourths of all the states have to agree to a new amendment. Because this takes time, the Constitution has not been changed very often. Today there are only twenty-six amendments to the Constitution.

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Discuss:

1. What is the Bill of Rights about?

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2. What does impeachment mean?

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Reading Questions

Write one sentence to describe the history of Constitution for each area below:

What?

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When?

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How?

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Where?

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Why?

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Who?

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Main idea

1. What is the writer’s main idea?

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2. What example supports the writer’s main idea?

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3. How does the example help the writer’s argument?

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4. What do you think about the story?

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5. What is the book title?

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