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The United States Constitution is a special document written in 1787 that
created the framework of the federal government.
It is called the highest law in the land,
because all other laws in the United States must follow the rules laid out in the Constitution.
The story of the Constitution began in 1776
when the Second Continental Congress appointed a committee to write the Declaration of Independence.
They realized that as soon as they were independent of Great Britain,
they would need their own government,
and so they appointed another committee
to write a document that would lay out the rules governing their new country.
These rules, called the Articles of Confederation,
were completed in the fall of 1777.
In order to become law,
the Articles of Confederation needed to be ratified,
or for mally agreed to, by all thirteen states,
a process that took more than 3 years.
In 1781, the Articles of Confederation were officially adopted,
and the United States of America finally had its own government.
It soon became obvious, however, that this new government had problems.
Under the Articles of Confederation
the states operated like small, independent countries,
the central government wasn’t strong enough to perform its duties.
In 1787 a Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
to discuss improvements to the Articles of Confederation,
but it was soon decided that a brand new Constitution was needed instead.
With George Washington in charge,
these delegates, known as the framers of the Constitution,
set about creating a government that would meet the needs of their country.
They needed a government that was strong enough to do its job,
but not so strong that it could oppress the states.
They needed to have the powers that belonged to the federal government
and the powers that belonged to the states clearly established.
They needed to protect the individual liberties of American citizens.
Finally, they needed a way for future Americans
to make changes to the Constitution without the need for a revolution.
After months of debate and compromise,
the Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787,
and by the following year enough states had ratified it that
it went into effect.
At the time of its signing,
the Constitution was made up of a Preamble and seven Articles.
The Preamble was an introduction that
told everyone what the Constitution was supposed to do
“ We the People of the United States,
in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice,
insure domestic Tranquility,
provide for the common defence,
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 first three Articles of the Constitution created the branches of our government:
the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches.
Each branch would have different powers
and have the ability to stop the other branches
from growing too powerful in a system of checks and balances.
The remaining Articles spelled out
relationships between the states and the federal government,
how to make changes to the Constitution,
how the Constitution could become law,
and established it as the supreme, or highest, law in the land.
Changes to the Constitution are called Amendments,
and the first Amendments were made very soon after the Constitution was ratified.
Some people were worried that
the Constitution did not provide strong enough protections for individual rights.
To fix this, the first ten Amendments,
known as the Bill of Rights,
were added to the Constitution in 1791.
The Bill of Rights spells out rights that individuals have in the United States,
such as freedom of speech and religion,
as well as rights that people have when they are accused of a crime.
Finally, the Bill of Rights says that
people can have other rights that are not spelled out in the Constitution,
and that any power not given to the Federal government belongs to the states.
Since then the Constitution has been amended seventeen more times
for a total of 27 amendments.
Some famous amendments include the 13th Amendment,
which outlawed slavery,
the 15th Amendment,
which allowed people to vote regardless of their race or skin color,
the 19th Amendment,
which gave women the right to vote,
and the 26th Amendment,
which lowered the voting age to 18.
The Constitution of the United States
is the oldest single document in history
that is still being used to run a country,
and has inspired other governments all around the world.
Because it was designed to protect the rights of the people,
prevent individual parts of the government from becoming too powerful,
and change over time to meet the needs of the country,
it has not needed to be replaced for well over 200 years
and may easily continue to guide the country far into the future.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Constitution of the United States of America today.
Goodbye till next time!
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