Constitution of the United States of America is
the supreme law of the United States.
It is the foundation and source of the
legal authority underlying the existence of the United States of
America and the federal government of the United States. It
provides the framework for the organization of the United States
and for the relationship of the federal government
to the states, to citizens, and to all people within the United
Constitution defines the three main branches of government: a
legislature, bicameral Congress; an executive branch
led by the President;
and a judicial branch headed by the Supreme
The Constitution specifies the powers and
duties of each branch. The Constitution reserves all unenumerated
powers for the respective states
people, thereby establishing the federal
States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the
Constitutional Convention in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified by
conventions in each U.S. state in the
name of "The People".
The Constitution has been amended
twenty-seven times; the first ten amendments are known as the
Bill of Rights
The United States Constitution is the shortest and oldest written
still in use by any nation
in the world today.
The Constitution has a central place in United States law
and political culture
handwritten original document penned by Jacob Shallus is on display at the National Archives and Records
Administration in Washington, D.C.
Drafting and ratification requirements
The Articles of Confederation
and Perpetual Union
was the first constitution of the United
States of America.
In September 1786, commissioners from five states met in the
discuss adjustments to the Articles of Confederation
would improve commerce. They invited state representatives to convene
in Philadelphia to discuss improvements to the
After debate, the Congress of the Confederation
endorsed the plan to revise the Articles of Confederation on
February 21, 1787. Twelve states, Rhode Island being the only exception, accepted this invitation
and sent delegates to convene in May 1787.
calling the Convention specified that its purpose was to propose
amendments to the Articles, but through discussion and debate it
became clear by mid-June that, rather than amend the existing
Articles, the Convention decided to propose a rewritten
Constitution. The Philadelphia
voted to keep the debates secret, so that the
delegates could speak freely. They also decided to draft a new
fundamental government design. Despite Article 13 of the Articles
of Confederation stating that the union created under the Articles
was "perpetual" and that any alteration must be "agreed to in a
Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the
legislatures of every State," Article VII of the proposed
constitution stipulated that only nine of the thirteen states would
have to ratify for the new government to go into effect (for the
participating states). Current knowledge of the drafting and
construction of the United States Constitution comes primarily from
the diaries left by James Madison
kept a complete record of the proceedings at the Constitutional
Work of the Philadelphia Convention
The Virginia Plan
was the unofficial
agenda for the Convention, and was drafted chiefly by James Madison
, considered to be "The Father of
the Constitution" for his major contributions. It was weighted
toward the interests of the larger states, and proposed among other
alternative proposal, William
's New Jersey Plan
states equal weights and was supported by the smaller states.
Roger Sherman of Connecticut brokered The
Great Compromise whereby the House would represent the people,
a Senate would represent the states, and a president would be
elected by electors.
The contentious issue of slavery
was too controversial
to be resolved during the convention. As a result, the original
Constitution contained four provisions tacitly allowing slavery to
continue for the next 20 years. Section 9 of Article I allowed the
continued "importation" of such persons, Section 2 of Article IV
prohibited the provision of assistance to escaping persons and
required their return if successful and Section 2 of Article I
defined other persons as "three-fifths" of a person for
calculations of each state's official population for representation
and federal taxation. Article V prohibited any amendments or
legislation changing the provision regarding slave importation
until 1808, thereby giving the States then existing 20 years to
resolve this issue. The failure to do so contributed to the
Ratification of the Constitution
||December 7, 1787
||December 11, 1787
||December 18, 1787
||January 2, 1788
||January 9, 1788
||February 6, 1788
||April 26, 1788
||May 23, 1788
||June 21, 1788
||June 25, 1788
||July 26, 1788
||November 21, 1789
||May 29, 1790
Contrary to the process for "alteration" set out in Article 13 of
, Congress submitted the proposal to the
states and set the terms for representation.
On September 17, 1787, the Constitution was completed, followed by
a speech given by Benjamin
, who urged unanimity,although the Convention decided
that only nine states were needed to ratify. The Convention
submitted the Constitution to the Congress of the Confederation
where it received approval according to Article 13 of the Articles of
Once the Congress of the Confederation received word of New
Hampshire's ratification, it set a timetable for the start of
operations under the new Constitution, and on March 4, 1789, the
ideas in the Constitution were new, and a large number were drawn
from the literature of Republicanism in the United
States, the experiences of the 13 states, and the British experience with mixed
The most important influence from the
European continent was from Montesquieu
emphasized the need to have balanced forces pushing against each
other to prevent tyranny. (This in itself reflects the influence of
's 2nd century BC treatise on the
checks and balances
constitution of the Roman Republic
British political philosopher John Locke
was a major influence, and the due
clause of the Constitution was partly based on common law
stretching back to Magna Carta
Influences on the Bill of Rights
The United States Bill of
consists of the ten amendments added to the Constitution
in 1791, as supporters of the constitution had promised critics
during the debates of 1788. The English Bill of Rights
was an inspiration for
the American Bill of Rights. Both require jury trials
, contain a right to keep and bear arms
and forbid "cruel and unusual
Many liberties protected by state constitutions
and the Virginia
Declaration of Rights
were incorporated into the Bill of
Articles of the Constitution
The Constitution consists of a preamble, seven original articles,
, and a paragraph certifying its enactment by the
Preamble: Statement of purpose
The Preamble states:
The Preamble does not grant any particular authority to the federal
government and it does not prohibit any particular authority. It
establishes the fact that the federal government has no authority
outside of what follows the preamble, as amended. "We the people",
is one of the most-quoted sections of the Constitution. It was
thought by the Federalists
time that there was no need for a bill of rights as they thought
that the preamble explained the people's rights.
Article One: Legislative power
Article One describes the Congress
of the federal
government. The United States
is a bicameral
consisting of two co-equal houses: the House of
to represent the people, and the Senate
to represent the States.
The article establishes the manner of election
qualifications of members of each body. Representatives must be at
least 25 years old, be a citizen of the United States for seven
years, and live in the state they represent. Senators must be at
least 30 years old, be a citizen for nine years, and live in the
state they represent.
In Article I Section I reads, "All legislative powers herein
granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which
shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives." This gives
Congress more than simply the responsibility to establish the rules
governing its proceedings and for the punishment of its members; it
places the power of the government primarily in Congress.
I Section 8
enumerates the legislative powers. The powers
listed and all other powers are made the exclusive responsibility
of the legislative branch:
The Congress shall have power...
To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper
for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other
powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United
States, or in any department or officer thereof.
Article I Section IX
provides a list of eight specific limits
on congressional power and
Article I Section X
limits the rights of the states.
United States Supreme Court has interpreted the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause in
Article One to allow Congress to enact legislation that is neither
expressly listed in the enumerated power nor expressly denied in
the limitations on Congress.
In McCulloch v. Maryland
(1819), the United
States Supreme Court fell back on the strict construction of the
necessary and proper clause to read that Congress had "[t]he
foregoing powers and all other powers..."
Article Two: Executive power
Section 1 creates the presidency
. The section
states that the executive power is vested in a President. The
presidential term is four years and the Vice President serves the
identical term. This section originally set the method of electing
the President and Vice President, but this method has been
superseded by the Twelfth Amendment.
- Qualifications. The President must be a natural born citizen of
the United States, at least 35 years old and a resident of the
United States for at least 14 years. An obsolete part of this
clause provides that instead of being a natural born citizen, a
person may be a citizen at the time of the adoption of the
Constitution. The reason for this clause was to extend eligibility
to Citizens of the United States at the time of the adoption of the
Constitution, regardless of their place of birth, who were born
under the allegiance of a foreign sovereign before the founding of
the Untied States. Without this clause, no one would have been
eligible to be president until thirty five years after the founding
of the United States.
- Succession. Section 1 specifies that the Vice President
to the presidency if the President is removed, unable to
discharge the powers and duties of office, dies while in office, or
resigns. The original text ("the same shall devolve") left it
unclear whether this succession was intended to be on an acting basis (merely taking on the powers
of the office) or permanent (assuming the Presidency itself). After
the death of William Henry
Harrison, John Tyler set the
precedent that the succession was permanent; this practice was
followed when later presidents died in office. Today the 25th
Amendment states that the Vice President becomes President upon
the death or disability of the President.
- Pay. The President receives "Compensation" for being the
president, and this compensation may not be increased or decreased
during the president's term in office. The president may not
receive other compensation from either the United States or any of
the individual states.
- Oath of office. The final clause creates the presidential oath
to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.
Section 2 grants substantive powers to the president:
- The president is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces,
and of the state militias when these are called into federal
- The president may require opinions of the principal officers of
the federal government.
- The president may grant reprieves and pardons, except in cases
of impeachment (i.e., the president cannot pardon himself or
herself to escape impeachment by Congress).
Section 2 grants and limits the president's appointment powers:
- The president may make treaties, with the advice and consent of
the Senate, provided two-thirds of the Senators who are present
- With the advice and consent of the Senate, the President may
appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of
the supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States
whose appointments are not otherwise described in the
- Congress may give the power to appoint lower officers to the
President alone, to the courts, or to the heads of
- The president may make any of these appointments during a
congressional recess. Such a "recess appointment" expires at the
end of the next session of Congress.
Section 3 opens by describing the president's relations with
- The president reports on the state of the union.
- The president may convene either house, or both houses, of
- When the two houses of Congress cannot agree on the time of
adjournment, the president may adjourn them to some future
Section 3 adds:
- The president receives ambassadors.
- The president sees that the laws are faithfully executed.
- The president commissions all the offices of the federal
Section 4 provides for removal of the president and other federal
officers. The president is removed on impeachment
for, and conviction of, treason,
bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
Article Three: Judicial power
Three describes the court system (the judicial branch), including the Supreme
The article requires that there be one
court called the Supreme Court; Congress, at its discretion, can
create lower courts, whose judgments and orders are reviewable by
the Supreme Court. Article Three also creates the right to trial by jury
in all criminal cases
, defines the crime of treason
, and charges Congress with providing for a
punishment for it. This Article also sets the kinds of cases that
may be heard by the federal judiciary, which cases the Supreme
Court may hear first (called original jurisdiction
), and that all
other cases heard by the Supreme Court are by appeal under such
regulations as the Congress shall make.
Article Four: States' powers and limits
Article Four describes the relationship between the states and the
federal government and amongst the states. For instance, it
requires states to give "full faith and credit
" to the
public acts, records, and court proceedings of the other states.
Congress is permitted to regulate
manner in which proof of such acts, records, or proceedings may be
admitted. The "privileges and immunities"
clause prohibits state governments from discriminating against
citizens of other
states in favor of resident citizens (e.g., having tougher
penalties for residents of Ohio convicted of
crimes within Michigan.) It also establishes extradition between the states, as well as
laying down a legal basis for freedom of movement and travel amongst
Today, this provision is sometimes taken for
granted, especially by citizens who live near state borders; but in
the days of the Articles of
, crossing state lines was often a much more
arduous and costly process. Article Four also provides for the
creation and admission of new states. The Territorial Clause
gives Congress the
power to make rules for disposing of federal property and governing
non-state territories of the United States. Finally, the fourth
section of Article Four requires the United States to guarantee to
each state a republican
form of government
, and to protect the states from invasion and
Article Five: Amendments
An amendment may be ratified in three ways:
- The new amendment may be approved by two-thirds of both houses
of Congress, then sent to the states for approval.
- Two-thirds of the state legislatures may apply to Congress for
a constitutional convention to consider amendments, which are then
sent to the states for approval.
- Congress may require ratification by special
convention. The convention method has been used only once, to
approve the 21st
Amendment (repealing prohibition, 1933).
Regardless of the method of proposing an amendment, final
ratification requires approval by three-fourths of the
Today Article Five places only one limit on the amending power: no
amendment may deprive a state of equal representation in the Senate
without that state's consent. The original Article V included other
limits on the amending power regarding slavery and taxation;
however, these limits expired in 1808.
Article Six: Federal power
Article Six establishes the Constitution, and the laws and treaties
of the United States made according to it, to be the supreme law
of the land, and that "the
judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the laws
or constitutions of any state notwithstanding." It also validates
created under the
Articles of Confederation and requires that all federal and state
legislators, officers, and judges take oaths or affirmations to
support the Constitution. This means that the states' constitutions
and laws should not conflict with the laws of the federal
constitution and that in case of a conflict, state judges are
legally bound to honor the federal laws and constitution over those
of any state.
Article Six also states "no religious
shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or
public Trust under the United States."
Article Seven: Ratification
Article Seven sets forth the requirements for ratification
of the Constitution. The
Constitution would not take effect until at least nine states had
ratified the Constitution in state conventions specially convened
for that purpose, and it would only apply to those states that
ratified it. (See above Drafting and
the Constitution is understood is influenced by court decisions,
especially those of the Supreme
These decisions are referred to as precedents
. In the 1803 case Marbury v. Madison
, the Supreme Court
established the doctrine of judicial
. Judicial review is the power of the Court to examine
federal legislation, executive agency rules and state laws, to
decide their constitutionality
and to strike them down if found unconstitutional. Judicial review
includes the power of the Court to explain the meaning of the
Constitution as it applies to particular cases. Over the years,
Court decisions on issues ranging from governmental regulation of
to the rights of the accused in criminal cases have changed the way
many constitutional clauses are interpreted, without amendment to
the actual text of the Constitution.
Legislation passed to implement the Constitution, or to adapt those
implementations to changing conditions, broadens and, in subtle
ways, changes the meanings given to the words of the Constitution.
Up to a point, the rules and regulations of the many federal
executive agencies have a similar effect. If an action of Congress
or the agencies is challenged, however, it is the court system that
ultimately decides whether these actions are permissible under the
The framers of the Constitution were aware that changes would be
necessary if the Constitution was to endure as the nation grew.
However, they were also conscious that such change should not be
easy, lest it permit ill-conceived and hastily passed amendments
. On the other hand, they
also wanted to ensure that a rigid requirement of unanimity would
not block action desired by the vast majority of the population.
Their solution was a two-step process for proposing and ratifying
Amending the Constitution is a two-part process: amendments must be
proposed then ratified. Amendments can be proposed one of two ways.
To date, all amendments, whether ratified or not, have been
proposed by a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress. Over
10,000 constitutional amendments have been introduced in Congress
since 1789; during the last several decades, between 100 and 200
have been offered in a typical congressional year. Most of these
concepts never get out of Congressional committee, and far fewer
get proposed by the Congress for ratification.
Alternatively, if two-thirds of the state legislatures demand one,
Congress must call for a constitutional convention, which would
have the power to propose amendments. As no such convention has
been called, it is unclear how one would work in practice. In two
instances—reapportionment in the 1960s and a balanced federal
budget during the 1970s and 1980s—attempts to use this process have
come extremely close to triggering a constitutional convention. The
apportionment debate of the 1960s fell only one state short of the
required number of states
Regardless of how the amendment is proposed, it must also be
ratified by three-fourths of states. Congress determines whether
the state legislatures or special state conventions
the amendment. The 21st
is the only one that employed state conventions for
There are currently only a few proposals for amendments which have
entered mainstream political debate. These include the Federal Marriage Amendment
Balanced Budget Amendment
and the Flag Desecration
. All three proposals are supported primarily by
conservatives, but failed during periods of Republican control of
Congress to achieve the supermajorities necessary for submission to
the states. As such, none of these is likely to be proposed under
the current Congress
which is controlled by the more liberal Democratic Party.
to most constitutions
, amendments to the United States
Constitution are appended to the body of the text without altering
or removing what already exists, although nothing prevents a future
amendment from doing so.
The Constitution has twenty-seven amendments. The first ten,
collectively known as the Bill of Rights
, were ratified
simultaneously by 1791. The following seventeen were ratified
separately over the next two centuries.
The Bill of Rights (Amendments 1 to 10)
It is commonly understood that originally the Bill of Rights was
not intended to apply to the states; however, there is no such
limit in the text itself, except where an amendment refers
specifically to the federal government. One example is the First
, which says only that "Congress shall make no
law...", and under which some states in the early years of the
nation officially established a
. A rule of inapplicability to the states remained
until 1868, when the Fourteenth
was passed, which stated, in part, that:
The Supreme Court has interpreted this clause to extend most, but
not all, parts of the Bill of Rights to the states. Nevertheless,
the balance of state and federal power has remained a battle in the
The amendments that became the Bill of Rights were the last ten of
the twelve amendments proposed in 1789. The second of the twelve
proposed amendments, regarding the compensation of members of
Congress, remained unratified until 1992, when the legislatures of
enough states finally approved it; as a result, after pending for
two centuries, it became the Twenty-seventh
The first of the
, which is still technically pending before the state
legislatures for ratification, pertains to the apportionment of the
House of Representatives
after each decennial census
. The most recent state whose lawmakers are
known to have ratified this proposal is Kentucky in 1792, during that commonwealth's first month of
Amendment: addresses the rights of freedom of religion
(prohibiting Congress from establishing a
religion and protecting the right to free exercise of
religion), freedom of speech,
freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of petition.
Amendment: guarantees the right of individuals to possess
firearms. See District of Columbia v.
Amendment: prohibits the government from using private homes as
quarters for soldiers during peacetime without the consent of the
owners. The only existing case law regarding this amendment is a
lower court decision in the case of Engblom v. Carey.
Amendment: guards against searches, arrests, and seizures of
property without a specific warrant or a
"probable cause" to believe a crime
has been committed. Some rights to privacy have been inferred from
this amendment and others by the Supreme Court.
Amendment: forbids trial for a major
crime except after indictment by a grand
jury; prohibits double jeopardy
(repeated trials), except in certain very limited circumstances;
forbids punishment without due process
of law; and provides that an accused person may not be compelled to
testify against himself (this is
also known as "Taking the Fifth" or
"Pleading the Fifth"). This is regarded as the "rights of the
accused" amendment, otherwise known as the Miranda rights after the Supreme Court case.
It also prohibits government from taking private property for
public use without "just
compensation," the basis of eminent
domain in the United States.
Amendment: guarantees a speedy public trial for criminal
offenses. It requires trial by a jury,
guarantees the right to legal counsel
for the accused, and guarantees that the accused may require
witnesses to attend the trial and testify in
the presence of the accused. It also guarantees the accused a right
to know the charges against him. The Sixth Amendment has several
court cases associated with it, including Powell v. Alabama, United States v.
Wong Kim Ark,
Gideon v. Wainwright, and Crawford v. Washington. In 1966, the Supreme
Court ruled that the fifth amendment prohibition on forced
self-incrimination and the sixth amendment clause on right to
counsel were to be made known to all persons placed under arrest,
and these clauses have become known as the Miranda rights.
Amendment: assures trial by jury in civil cases.
Amendment: forbids excessive bail or
fine, and cruel and unusual
Amendment: declares that the listing of individual rights in
the Constitution and Bill of Rights is not meant to be
comprehensive; and that the other rights not specifically mentioned
are retained by the people.
Amendment: reserves to the states respectively, or to the
people, any powers the Constitution did not delegate to the United
States, nor prohibit the states from exercising.
Subsequent amendments (11 to 27)
Amendments to the Constitution after the Bill of Rights cover many
subjects. The majority of the seventeen later amendments stem from
continued efforts to expand individual civil or political
liberties, while a few are concerned with modifying the basic
governmental structure drafted in Philadelphia in 1787. Although
the United States Constitution has been amended 27 times, only 26
of the amendments are currently in effect because the twenty-first
amendment supersedes the eighteenth.
Of the thirty-three amendments that have been proposed by Congress,
six have failed ratification by the required three-quarters of the
state legislatures, and four of those six are still technically
pending before state lawmakers (see Coleman v. Miller
). Starting with the 18th
Amendment, each proposed amendment has included a deadline for
passage, except the 19th Amendment (women's voting) and the
Child Labor Amendment
proposed in 1924 and still unratified. The following are the
- The Congressional
Apportionment Amendment, proposed by the 1st Congress on September 25,
1789, defined a formula for how many members there would be in the
House of Representatives after each decennial census.
by eleven states, the last being Kentucky in June 1792 during Kentucky's initial month of
statehood, this amendment contains no expiration date for
ratification. In principle it may yet be ratified, though as
written it became moot when the population of the United States
reached ten million.
- The so-called missing thirteenth amendment, or "Titles of Nobility Amendment"
(TONA), proposed by the 11th
Congress on May 1, 1810, would have ended the citizenship of
any American accepting "any Title of Nobility or Honour" from any foreign power. Some
maintain that the amendment was actually ratified by the
legislatures of enough states, and that a conspiracy has suppressed
it, but this has been thoroughly debunked. Known to have been
ratified by lawmakers in twelve states, the last in 1812, this
amendment contains no expiration date for ratification. It may yet
- The Corwin amendment, proposed
by the 36th Congress on
March 2, 1861, would have forbidden any attempt to subsequently
amend the Constitution to empower the federal government to
"abolish or interfere" with the "domestic institutions" of the
states (a delicate way of referring to slavery). It was ratified by
only Ohio and Maryland lawmakers before the outbreak of the Civil War. Illinois lawmakers—sitting as a state constitutional
convention at the time—likewise approved it, but that action is of
questionable validity. The proposed amendment contains no
expiration date for ratification and may yet be ratified. However,
adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments after the Civil War
likely means that the amendment would be ineffective if
- A child labor amendment
proposed by the 68th
Congress on June 2, 1924. It provides, "The Congress shall have
power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under
eighteen years of age." This amendment is highly unlikely to be
ratified, since subsequent federal child labor laws have
uniformly been upheld as a valid exercise of Congress's powers
under the Commerce Clause.
Expired deadlines. This category is separate from the other four
unratified constitutional amendments. These two were not ratified
by their deadlines and they have expired.
- The Equal Rights
Amendment, or ERA, which reads in pertinent part "Equality of
rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United
States or by any state on account of sex." Proposed by the 92nd Congress on March 22, 1972,
it was ratified by the legislatures of 35 states, and expired on
either March 22, 1979 or on June 30, 1982, depending upon one's
point of view of a controversial three-year extension of the
ratification deadline, which was passed by the 95th Congress in 1978. Of the 35
states ratifying it, four later rescinded their ratifications prior
to the extended ratification period which commenced March 23, 1979
and a fifth, while not going so far as to rescind its earlier
ratification, adopted a resolution stipulating that its approval
would not extend beyond March 22, 1979. There continues to be
disagreement as to whether such reversals are valid; no court has
ruled on the question, including the Supreme Court. But a precedent
against the validity of rescission was first established during the
ratification process of the 14th Amendment when Ohio and New Jersey rescinded their earlier approvals, but yet were
counted as ratifying states when the 14th Amendment was ultimately
proclaimed part of the Constitution in 1868.
- The District of
Columbia Voting Rights Amendment was proposed by the 95th
Congress on August 22, 1978. Had this amendment been ratified, it would
have granted to Washington,
D.C. two Senators and at least one member of the House
of Representatives as though the District of Columbia were a
state. Ratified by the legislatures of only 16 states (out
of the required 38), the proposed amendment expired on August 22,
Criticism of the Constitution
Several academics have criticized the Constitution for specific
shortcomings. University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato
wants an amendment to organize
primaries to prevent a "frontloaded calendar" long before the
election to prevent a "race by states to the front of the primary
pack" which subverts the national interest, in his view. Sabato
details more objections in his book A More Perfect
agrees with Sabato about the "incoherent organization
of primaries and caucuses," and faults the Constitution for
enabling presidents to continue unpopular wars, for requiring
presidents to be "natural born citizens", for lifetime tenure for
Supreme Court judges which "produces senior judges representing the
views of past generations better than views of the current day." He
writes "If the 26 least populated states voted as a bloc, they
would control the U.S. Senate with a total of just under 17% of the
of Texas law professor Sanford
Levinson wonders whether it makes sense to give "Wyoming the same number of votes as California, which has roughly seventy times the
He thinks this imbalance causes a "steady
redistribution of resources from large states to small states."
Levinson is critical of the electoral
since it allows the possibility of electing presidents
who do not win the majority of votes. Levinson's book Our
lists numerous flaws with the
current Constitution, including the view that small states have too
much clout in the Senate. The current Constitution does not give
the people a quick way to remove incompetent or ill presidents, in
his view. Further, Levinson does not like the electoral college
. Three times in American
history, presidents have been elected by the electoral college
despite failing to win the popular vote: 1876 (Rutherford B. Hayes
), 1888 (Benjamin Harrison
) and 2000 (George W. Bush
). Others have criticized the politically
driven redistricting process popularly known as gerrymandering
Vanderbilt professor Dana D. Nelson
believes the presidency has become too
powerful. In her book, Bad for
, she argues that all citizens seem to do,
politically, is vote for president every four years, and not much
else. Nelson criticizes excessive worship of the president or
and sees the office as essentially
Yale professor Robert A. Dahl
sees a problem with an American tendency
towards worship of the Constitution itself, and sees aspects of
American governance which are "unusual and potentially
undemocratic: the federal system, the bicameral legislature,
judicial review, presidentialism, and the electoral college
system." Levinson and Labunski and others have called for a Second
Constitutional Convention, although professors like Dahl believe
there is no real hope this might ever happen.
The Constitution has been translated into many world languages:
Professor James Chen has annotated the Spanish translation prepared
by the U.S. State Department. His notes focus on the problems and
nuances of this translation.
Nguyen Canh Binh has translated the Constitution into
The Bill of Rights has been translated into Hawaiian.
There is a partial translation of the Bill of Rights into Esperanto
The Federal Judicial Center has links to other materials about the
United States government and judicial system. The site has
materials in 16 languages besides English, such as Indonesian,
Malay, Serb, and Vietnamese.
Original pages of the Constitution
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- Bailyn, Bernard, ed. The Debate on the Constitution:
Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters
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