The US Constitution: In Detail
(Updated 2012-2013 School Year)
Introduction to the Constitution. States the reasons
the document was created.
Written by Gouverneur Morris
“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.”
Article 1: The Legislative Branch
Article 1 has 10 Sections
Largest article of the Constitution
The Capital Building (Washington D.C.)
Article 1 Section 1: Congress
Legislative powers = Congress
Congress = Senate and House of Representatives
Sets up the “Bicameral System,” similar to England’s
Parliament with its House of Lords and House of
Article 1 Section 2 – House of Reps
House Representatives elected every 2 years
1. 25 years old
2. Been a citizen of the US for at least 7 years
3. Must live in the state they are representing
Technically does NOT have to live in the district they
represent, although most typically do.
Champaign, IL is located in the 13th District
Currently, your 13th District House Rep. is Rodney
Article 1 Section 2 – House of Reps
The number of House Representatives in each state
is determined by the population of that state, based
on a national Census that takes place every 10
(Originally part of the Great Compromise) - Slaves
count as 3/5th of a person when counting towards the
population of that state. Natives who aren’t taxed are
Number of House Reps is fixed at 435. (about 1
representative for every 700,000 citizens)
Regardless of population, each state is guaranteed
at least one House Rep. seat.
Article 1 Section 2 – House of Reps
When a House Rep. seat is vacant (someone quits
or is of ill-health), it is up to that state to create a
special election to nominate another House Rep.
The House of Reps may choose its “Speaker.”
Currently, the Speaker of the House is John Boehner ***
Nancy Pelosi is the minority leader
The House of Representatives has the sole power of
defining what constitutes as impeachment, while
the Senate holds the trial.
Impeachment – to remove an elected official from
Article 1 Section 3 - Senate
Each state has 2 Senators (100 total for our 50 states)
6 year term for Senators
1. 30 years old
2. Been a citizen of the US for 9 years
3. Must live in the state that he or she is being elected in
Your Illinois Senators are Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin
In 1913, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution changed
the election of Senators from state legislatures to the
DIRECT election by the people of that state. This
includes if there is a vacant seat due to death, illness,
Senators are elected in three “classes,” staggered two
years apart. Basically, every two years, a third of Senate
Article 1 Section 3 – Senate (continued)
The Vice President is the President of the
Senate, but only votes on an issue if there is a 50-50
This has happened 243 times by 35 different Vice
The Senate is allowed to choose a “pro tempore,” or
backup, President if the Vice President is absent.
Typically, the senior most member of the Senate fills this
The Senate is given the sole power to try (hold a
trial) impeachments. The Senate only has the power
to remove that person from office; it can’t send them
Historically, only two US Presidents have been
impeached by the House of Reps, (Andrew Johnson and
Article 1 Section 4: Congressional Elections
The states get to decide when, where, and how
elections for their representatives will be done.
Congress, however, is authorized to create uniform
national rules for elections such as:
Election Day for the US (President and Congress): The
Tuesday following the first Monday in November
Congress must assemble at least once a year.
Realistically, Congress is in session almost year-round.
Article 1 Section 5: Legislative Procedure
The majority of each House of Congress is
necessary to do business. (more than half of
Congress had to be there to pass laws)
A two-thirds vote by Congress can expel an
Congress must keep a journal of what happens, but
can choose to keep items secret if they deem
Today, you can see most every debate in Congress on
Each House (Senate and House of Reps) must
receive consent from the other house if it wants to
adjourn (take a break) for more than three days.
Article 1 Section 6:
Compensation, privileges, and restrictions
on holding civil office.
Congress decides their own salaries.
The 27th Amendment ensures that changes to salaries will
not take effect until after the next congressional election.
The only crimes a Congressman may be convicted
of during their terms are Treason, felonies, or breach
of the peace.
Congressmen are not allowed to simultaneously
work in Congress and hold any office in the
Executive branch, or resign to take a job that pays a
Article 1 Section 7: Bills to Laws
The House of Representatives can introduce bills to
generate revenue (create taxes to get money).
All bills must be presented to the President of the
United States in order to pass.
If the President signs the bill, it becomes a law.
If the President does not approve, the President will
send the bill back (veto) to the originating house of
Congress with reasons why.
Congress can override the Presidential veto with a
2/3 vote in the House and Senate.
Article 1 Section 7: Bills to Laws (cont.)
“The Pocket Pass” - If the President lets the bill sit
on his/her desk for ten days (Sundays do not count)
without taking action, and Congress is still in
session, the bill passes.
“The Pocket Veto” – If the President lets the bill sit
on his/her desk for ten days without taking any
action and Congress is NOT in session, the bill
Article 1 Section 8: Powers of Congress
Start and Collect Taxes
(House of Reps initiates taxes)
Coin Money (print money)
Last time Congress declared war was WWII (1941)
Raise an army/navy (military)
Regulate Commerce (trade) with other nations and
Article 1 Section 9: Limits on Congress
The slave trade is only allowed until Jan 1st
1808, thereafter trading slaves to the US is illegal.
Slavery itself was still legal until the 13th Amendment in 1865
Habeus Corpus can be denied under Martial Law
Rebellion or invasion are reasons to suspend habeus corpus
No Bill of Attainder Law: you cannot be convicted without
No Ex Post Facto Law: “after the fact” – this means you
cannot be punished for a crime that was made criminal
after the action was done.
No state to state export taxes (states can’t favor one
No titles of nobility
Article 1 Section 10 Contracts/Treaties
Individual states may NOT exercise the rights
reserved to the federal government (AKA Congress).
For example, states may not print their own state’s
States can’t tax imports/exports from another state
Without the consent of Congress, states cannot keep
troops/armies during times of peace.
However, states can organize militias (2nd
Today some states have “State defense forces” that are
separate from the National Guard. Illinois has a naval
States can’t accept alliances with other nations.
Article 2 – The Executive Branch
Article 2 has 4 Sections
The White House
The Oval Office
Article 2 Section 1: Executive Power
Executive Power: President
Executes/Enforces the laws Congress makes
President: 4 year term
Vice President: 4 year term
The President is chosen by “electors” which are
equal to the number of legislators in each state.
Electors = # of House Reps + 2 Senators
Illinois has 18 House Reps + 2 Senators = 20 “electors”
23rd Amendment gives Washington D.C. 3 electors,
same as the lowest number in any state.
Article 2 Section 1 (cont.) – Executive
Originally, “electors,” AKA congressmen, would
choose the President directly.
After the 12th Amendment (1804), “electors” are
chosen by popular vote. This means that citizens
vote for President in their district, the Presidential
candidate with the majority of districts, wins that
There is an exception of Maine and Nebraska where
district “electors” are split, and do not go “winner takes
If there is no majority in electoral votes, the House of
Reps chooses the President from three candidates.
The Senate would choose the Vice President from
Article 2 Section 1: Qualifications for
President of the United States of America
35 years old
Born in the US
Must have lived in the US for at least 14 years.
12th Amendment requires the Vice President to meet
all of the qualifications of the President
22nd Amendment (1951) prevents the President from
being elected more than twice.
FDR was elected FOUR times and was president
from1933-1945, when he died in office
Article 2 Section 1: Presidential Succession
The 25th Amendment states that, in case the
President can’t perform his/her tasks, the Vice
President becomes President.
If the VP can’t do it:
Speaker of the House of Reps
President pro tempore of the Senate (senior most
15 Cabinet Secretaries in order of that Dept.’s
1 Vice President of the United States Joe Biden (D)
2 Speaker of the House John Boehner (R)
3 President pro tempore of the Senate Patrick Leahy (D)
4 Secretary of State John Kerry (D)
5 Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew (D)
6 Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (R)
7 Attorney General Eric Holder (D)
-- Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (D)
8 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (D)
-- Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank (D)
-- Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris (D)
9 Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius (D)
10 Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan (D)
11 Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood (R)
-- Acting Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman (D)
12 Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (D)
13 Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki (I)
14 Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (D
The Executive Branch include the President and
VP, as well as cabinet members that the President
These members serve at the President’s
discretion, meaning the President can dismiss a
cabinet member whenever he/she wants to.
Cabinet members are given the title, “Secretary.”
Some cabinet members include:
Secretary of State
Secretary of the Treasury
Secretary of Defense
Article 2 Section 1 (cont.)
The President gets paid for his/her service
Currently, Obama gets $400,000/year
Must take “Oath of Office” to “officially” become
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute
the Office of President of the United States, and will to the
best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the
Constitution of the United States."
Article 2 Section 2 – Presidential Powers
President is Commander in Chief of Military
Military includes Army, Navy, Marines, National Guard, etc.
President can (legally) send troops wherever, with
Congressional cooperation. Though, without declaring war.
Can grant pardons (get out of jail cards) for anyone,
Can Create treaties with 2/3 of Senate ratification
Can appoint Supreme Court Judges (when
applicable), cabinet members, ambassadors, etc. with
consent of 2/3 the Senate.
Can appoint officers to fill in Senate seats until
Article 2 Section 3: Presidential
President must give “State of the Union” address.
This is an annual speech given to Congress that
addresses goals the President has for the country.
President can call a special session of Congress if
Happened only 27 times, last in 1948 by Truman
The President deals with foreign ambassadors.
The President must “take care that the laws be
Enforces the laws.
President can commission
Article 2 Section 4 - Impeachment
The President, VP, and other civil officers can be
impeached for Treason, Bribery, or other crimes.
(This includes judges)
Local Government (Executive Branch)
Illinois Governor: Patrick Quinn
Capital of Illinois is: Springfield
Article 3: The Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court Building (Washington D.C.)
Article 3 – The Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court and lower Federal courts as created
The Roberts Court, October 2010
Back row (left to right): Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G.
Breyer, Samuel A. Alito, and Elena Kagan. Front row (left
to right): Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief
Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, and Ruth Bader
Article 3 Section 1: Federal Courts
Judicial power: Supreme Court and “inferior” or
lower Federal courts
Supreme Court Judges serve for life
“shall hold their Offices during good Behavior”
Can be removed by impeachment (happened 14 times)
Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman appointed to
the Supreme Court.
Justices are paid for their services.
Salary may not change during term of service
9 Supreme Court Justices, including one “Chief
John G. Roberts Jr. is the current Chief Justice
The Chief Justice sets the agenda and leads debates
Article 3 Section 2: Judicial Power,
Jurisdiction, and Trial by Jury
The Judicial branch extends to all parts of the
government including all states, problems between
states, the executive and legislative branches, etc.
The 11th Amendment limits the Federal government from
hearing cases/lawsuits against states started by a citizen of
another state or foreign country.
Article 3 Section 2: Original v. Appellate
The Judicial Branch can enact Original Jurisdiction
and Appellate Jurisdiction.
Original Jurisdiction: the power to hear a case for the first
The Supreme Court holds original jurisdiction over
Ambassadors and public ministers.
Appellate Jurisdiction: power to review a lower court’s
All other cases are up to appellate jurisdiction
The Writ of Certiorari: the official request to the Supreme
court to review a lower court’s decision.
Article 3 Section 2 (cont.)
All crimes must have a trial by jury, except
Trials must take place in state and district where the crime
Judicial Review: the process of checking laws and
After the Supreme Court Case: Marbury v.
Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall determined
that the Supreme Court has the power of “Judicial
Review” over the Executive and Legislative
Judicial Review means that the Judicial Branch can
determine whether the actions of the Executive or
Legislative branches are constitutional or not.
Article 3 Section 3: Treason
Treason is defined as:
Starting war against the US
Aiding enemies of the US
The act of treason must be witnessed by two people
or through a confession of the defendant.
Note: There are NO constitutional requirements in
order to be a Supreme Court Justice.
Article 4 – States and the Federal Govt.
Obligations of States and Federal Government
How to admit new states
Article 4 Section 1: Full Faith and Credit
When a Federal court decision is made in one state,
it applies to all states.
Article 4 Section 2: Privileges and Immunities
Interstate protection of “privileges and immunities”
A citizen of one state is protected and given the same
privileges/rights in any other state. Laws and freedoms
can’t be changed on people from other states.
Fugitives who have committed crimes in one state
and fled to another state must be extradited back to
the original state where the crime was committed.
Fugitive Slave Clause – (same as fugitive clause, but
This is obviously taken away with the passage of the 13th
Amendment that ends slavery.
Article 4 Section 3: New States
New states must be admitted by Congress
States can’t break off part of their land to form a new
state or combine to form a larger single state without
the consent of both state legislatures and Congress.
Congress has final say over any territory disputes in
For instance, Congress is the only power that can add or
subtract territories. Puerto Rico is technically a
commonwealth of the United States and their legislative
powers would lay with the US Congress.
Article 4 Section 4: Obligations of the US
All states must have a republican government
Basically, this means that each state has to have a
government with the consent of the people.
Article 5 – Amending the Constitution
Amendments can be proposed by two methods:
A 2/3 vote in BOTH the House of Reps and the Senate to
propose an amendment and start a convention.
A national convention assembled at the request of the
legislatures of at least 2/3 of the states.
This method is very unlikely.
Amendments can be ratified (passed) if:
3/4 of Congress agree to pass it (ratify it).
Article 6 – The Constitution is Supreme
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
All US laws and treaties are also supreme.
Federal laws trump state laws. The US Supreme Court trumps
individual state supreme courts.
The US is responsible for all debts incurred during the
Articles of Confederation
No religious tests for government jobs
All government jobs are bound by oaths to uphold the US
I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and
defend the Constitution of the United States against all
enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and
allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without
any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well
and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am
about to enter. [So help me God.] (optional)
Article 7 – Passing the Constitution
Nine states were needed to ratify (pass) the US
Delaware, Pennsylvania, New
Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland,
South Carolina, and New Hampshire (June 21st, 1788)
were the first nine states to ratify the Constitution.
Virginia signed days later and New York in July of 1788.
North Carolina and Rhode Island waited until the Bill of
Rights was submitted to the states for ratification before
joining in 1789 and 1790 respectively.
Amendments (27 Total): Bill of Rights
The First through Tenth Amendments are known as
the Bill of Rights.
Bill of Rights were written in 1789 by James Madison
and ratified (passed) in 1791.
1st – Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly,
and petition (protesting).
2nd – Right to a regulated militia and bear Arms
3rd – No quartering of troops without consent
4th – No unreasonable searches/seizures (without a
warrant). Warrants must be issued by law with
Bill of Rights Continued
5th – Legal rights citizens are guaranteed:
No person can be detained for a capital or “infamous
crime” unless they are indicted by a grand jury.
No Double Jeopardy: You can’t be charged with the same
individual criminal act twice
You don’t have to testify against yourself (“plead the fifth”)
Due Process – nothing can be done to you unless proper
legal procedures are done. AKA, you cannot be
punished, executed, have your property taken away, etc.
unless you have been LEGALLY found guilty.
6th – Right to a speedy public trial by a jury of the
State and District where the crime was committed (of
your peers) with access to witnesses and an attorney.
Bill of Rights Continued
7th – Right to a trial with a jury in civil cases (non-
criminal cases). These cases cannot be re-opened
by another court.
8th – No excessive bail or cruel and unusual
punishment (including torture)
9th – The rights of the people not stated in the
Constitution must be protected as well, and are left
up to the states to decide.
10th – Everything not stated in the Constitution are
left up to the states.
11th - limits the Federal government from hearing
cases/lawsuits against states started by a citizen
of another state or foreign country.
12th - revises direct election of “electors” in the
electoral process. Requires the Vice President to
meet all of the qualifications of the President
13th – Abolition of slavery
14th – foreign born citizens can vote, equal protection
of the laws
15th – All men have the right to vote, including ex-
16th – Federal income tax established
17th - Direct election of Senators
18th – Alcohol prohibited
19th – Women get the right to vote
20th – January 20th is the day the new president takes
office (inauguration day)
21st – Repeals the 18th amendment, allows alcohol
22nd - prevents the President from being elected
more than twice.
23rd - Washington D.C. gets 3 electoral
24th – You may not charge people to register to vote
25th - states that, in case the President can’t perform
his/her tasks, the Vice President becomes President.
26th – You can vote if you are 18
27th – Congress can’t give themselves a salary raise
in the same term