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Americans hold the Constitution in high regard. One reason is that it has existed largely in its original form since 1788. Although only a few pages in length, this document has served this nation for over 200 years.
To understand the greatness of the Constitution, it is necessary to examine its ideas and objectives. They are:
– To establish a republican form of government based on a federal system. This is a government run by elected representatives of individual states. These states are tied together by a central federal government.
– To establish a division of powers between the state and federal governments.
– To create a separation of power among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.
– To establish a system of checks and balances. This helps keep any one branch from becoming too powerful.
– To provide a means for amending, or changing, the Constitution.
– To allow for future needs by making it possible to enlarge the meaning of the Constitution.
The greatness of the Constitution rests upon its link to law. The United States is a democracy or “government by the people.” For that reason it, like all democracies, is “a nation of law, not of any individual, or group of men or women.”
Our society is familiar with many different types of laws, such as traffic laws, voting laws, and crime prevention laws. However, there is a broader and more general type of law, which is the idea of legal authority. This concerns the power to make and enforce the laws that govern us as a society.
The United States is known as a nation of law. What is law? Law is the body of rules set down by legal authority. The legal authority is given to the government and the courts, which enable them to make, interpret, and enforce laws. It is this concept of law that makes it possible for a democracy to live by its laws. Law gives power to the government and the courts. Law also places limits on the government and courts as well as on individual people and businesses.
The Constitution and the Law
State and federal constitutions define the ways in which law functions in the United States. These constitutions establish and define the powers and limits of the various branches of state governments and the federal government.
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land. It was designed to provide the basis for the American system of government and law. The purpose behind the Constitution was set forth by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1788 in the preamble to the Constitution.
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 blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
United States law is based upon the federal Constitution and the constitutions of the states. In addition, United States law is based upon statutes, court decisions, and rules and regulations. These are the outcomes of the procedures established in the Constitution.
Lesson 3 Review
Directions: Answer each question below by writing a strong paragraph that includes supporting information from the lesson.
A strong paragraph includes a minimum of three to five details from the lesson and is written in Academic English form. Please cite your outside resources.
1. Give reasons why you think the following add to the greatness of the Constitution:
a. The republican form of government.
b. The division of powers between state and federal governments.
c. Providing a means for amending the Constitution.
d. Providing a system of checks and balances.
2. In your opinion, what is the importance of the United States being “a nation of law, not of any individual, or group of men or women”?
3. How does the idea of a “nation of laws” affect people and governments?
4. A British statesperson once called the Constitution of the United States, “the most remarkable work… to have been produced by the human intellect, at a single stroke.” What do you think he meant by that statement: Why do you think many people agree with what he said? Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Give reasons to support your opinion.
5. Explain in detail the meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution. Give one example of how the Preamble has affected your own life.