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The Constitution (True Books, Government)

What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer the Following Questions:
1. What year did the United States win its independence from Great Britain?

1783.
The American Revolution began on April 19, 1775, at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. It was fought between the American colonies and Great Britain.

At this time, the American colonies were made up of thirteen colonies. They were Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

In 1781, the British Army surrendered to the Continental Army at Yorktown, Virginia. Two years later, in 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed which officially ended the American Revolution.

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2. What year did the Constitutional Convention convene?
1787. On May 14, 1787, delegates from twelve of the thirteen states met at the State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to discuss ways to improve the government. Rhode Island was the only state who did not send delegates. Today, the State House is known as Independence Hall.

Did you know a convention is a big meeting, and delegates are people appointed to represent a group? Some of the famous delegates to the Constitutional Convention were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.

It took several days for the delegates to arrive in Philadelphia. They came by horse, by carriage, and by boat. By May 25, 1787, enough delegates had arrived to begin the convention.

There were fifty-five delegates at the Constitutional Convention, and they became known as the Founding Fathers of the United States. Did you know their average age was forty-three?

George Washington had been the General of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and he was elected president of the convention. The delegates worked hard for sixteen weeks during the sweltering heat of a Philadelphia summer.

There were many ideas for the best way to form a central government, and they had to compromise to settle their differences. Did you know a compromise is an agreement? For example, the delegates had to choose between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan as the basis of the Constitution, and they had to decide how many members each state would elect to the U.S. Congress.

The delegates also decided how long terms of office would be, how new states could join the Union, and how the Constitution could be amended.

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3. Was James Madison's plan for the Constitution known as the Virginia Plan or the New Jersey Plan?
The Virginia Plan.

The Virginia Plan: During the Constitutional Convention, James Madison came up with a plan for the Constitution, and Virginia Governor Edmund Randolph presented it to the convention. It was known as the Virginia Plan. This plan separated the government into three branches (or sections). These branches were the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch:

The executive branch would be led by a president in charge of the government. The president would be elected for a certain number of years, called a term.

The legislative branch would contain two houses (the House of Representatives and the Senate) called the Congress. The Congress would make the laws.

The judicial branch would be made up of the courts.

The New Jersey Plan: The small states were concerned the Virginia Plan would favor the large states so William Paterson of New Jersey proposed the New Jersey Plan. Under this plan, each state had an equal vote, Congress could control trade and have the right to tax, and the states would have more control than the president.

The delegates decided to choose one of the plans, and they chose the Virginia Plan.

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4. True or False: The Great Compromise was a compromise between large and small states regarding the number of representatives each state would have in the Congress.
True. Under the Virginia Plan, the Congress made the laws for the United States. The Congress was made up of two houses (or chambers): the House of Representatives and the Senate. The small states were concerned the large states would have more representatives in Congress, and therefore, would have more control over the making of laws.

The delegates from the large states and small states reached a compromise by combining parts of the New Jersey Plan with the Virginia Plan. This compromise became known as the Great Compromise.

According to the Great Compromise, the House of Representatives is elected according to population. This pleased the large states because the large states would have more representatives. The Senate is made up of two Senators from each state. This pleased the small states because each state would have the same number of Senators.

Did you know a legislature made up of two chambers is known as a bicameral system? The United States Congress is a bicameral system because it is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Did you know the House of Representatives and the Senate meet separately in the United States Capitol? Today, the House of Representatives has 438 members. Each member serves a two-year term. The Senate has 100 members, two from each of the 50 states. Each Senator serves a six-year term. Did you know a term is the length of time in office?

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5. True or False: The president is the Chief Executive.
True. The president is the head of the executive branch, and is known as the chief executive. The president serves a four-year term. In 1951, the XXII Amendment of the Constitution was ratified which states a person can only serve two terms as president. This is known as term limits.

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6. The Constitution of the United States was signed by the delegates on September 17, 1787. What year was the Constitution ratified by the states?
1788. After six weeks of debating, the Constitutional Convention formed a committee to write the final copy of the Constitution of the United States. Four days later, on September 12, 1787, the committee showed the delegates their work.
On September 17, 1787, the Constitution was signed by thirty-nine of the remaining forty-two delegates.

In order for the Constitution to become law, nine out of the thirteen (or three-fourths) of the states had to ratify (or accept) it. On December 7, 1787, Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify it, and the Constitution became the supreme law of the land. By May, 1790, all thirteen states ratified the Constitution. Did you know Rhode Island was the last state to ratify it?

During the ratification process from 1787 to 1788, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers. The Federalist Papers were a collection of 85 political essays in favor of the Constitution. The essays stated federalism (a strong central government) was the best safeguard of individual rights and state sovereignty.

The Constitution of the United States provides a framework for the U.S. government. Every law must be constitutional which means if the law goes against the constitution, it cannot be passed or it will be struck down. To "strike down" a law means to declare a law unconstitutional.

Did you know the United States celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Constitution in 1987?

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7. What does Article I, Article II, and Article III establish in the Constitution of the United States?
Article I establishes the legislative branch, Article II establishes the executive branch, and Article III establishes the judicial branch.

The Constitution of the United States is made up of seven Articles. The first three Articles describe the three branches of government. Article I describes the legislative branch. It consists of the U.S. Congress which contains both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Article II describes the executive branch. It consists of the President and Vice President. Article III describes the judicial branch. It consists of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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8. What is the Bill of Rights?
The first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, and became the first ten amendments to the Constitution. These ten amendments protect individual freedoms by describing rights the U.S. government cannot take away from the people. The first ten amendments are:

First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly, and the right to petition the government.

Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms.

Third Amendment guarantees soldiers cannot be quartered in any house.

Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Fifth Amendment guarantees a person the right to be indicted in Federal Court by a Grand Jury, not to be charged twice for the same crime (double jeopardy), not to be forced to incriminate themselves (self incrimination), to the due process of law, and not to have their property taken by the government without payment (eminent domain).

Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant in criminal proceedings, the right to a public and speedy trial, a fair jury, cross examination of witnesses, and an attorney.

Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury in a civil proceeding.

Eighth Amendment protects against excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishment.

Ninth Amendment reserves other rights to the people.

Tenth Amendment reserves States Rights.

Today, there are 27 amendments. The Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery in the United States, the Fifteenth Amendment guarantees the right to vote to all men regardless of race, and the Nineteenth Amendment guarantees the right to vote to all women.

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What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the following words:
Amendment: A change in the Constitution

Colonies: Groups of people ruled by an outside power

Executive: Concerning the president

Judicial: Concerning courts and judges

Legislative: Law-making

Ratify: Accept

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Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the Following Questions for Your FREE Bookmark):
a. True or False: The Articles of Confederation was the first set of rules established by the United States.
True. In 1777, during the American Revolution, the Second Continental Congress drafted the Articles of Confederation. It was ratified in 1781, and it became the first set of laws of the United States.

The Articles of Confederation provided for a weak and ineffective central government. There was no executive power (like the president), and there was no judicial power (like the courts). The Articles of Confederation provided for a Congress, but the Congress had no power. The Congress could not tax, raise armies, or pay debts. The Congress also had no power to regulate commerce between states. This led to states passing tariff laws against the other states.

Each state acted like a separate country. Under the Articles of Confederation the United States was heading for disunity.

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b. List ONE of the problems facing the United States which helped lead to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the establishment of a strong central government.
The population of the United States was growing. In 1776, there were 2.5 million people living in the country. In 1787, there were 4 million people living in the United States.

The weak central government did not have the power to help states who were having problems with foreign countries and trade.

Shays' Rebellion (1786-1787) broke out because farmers in Massachusetts could not pay their debts. The U.S. government could not help because it had no weapons or army.

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c. Describe ONE of the following people:
James Madison: He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers from 1787 to 1788, and the fourth President of the United States from 1809 to 1817. He is known as the Father of the Constitution, and he was the only person to make detailed notes of everything said and done during the Constitutional Convention.

Alexander Hamilton: He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers from 1787 to 1788, and the first Secretary of the Treasury from 1789 to 1795. Did you know Alexander Hamilton's picture is on the $10 bill?

George Washington: He was the General of the Continental Army during the American Revolution (1775-1783), a delegate to and president of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797.

Benjamin Franklin: He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He was 81 years old in 1787. Did you know Ben Franklin's picture is on the $100 bill? Read about Ben Franklin.

John Adams: He was the second President of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Did you know he was not a delegate to the Constitutional Convention because he was living in England as the U.S. Ambassador to England? An ambassador is a representative from a foreign country.

Thomas Jefferson: He was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He was not a delegate to the Constitutional Convention because he was living in France as the U.S. Ambassador to France. Did you know an ambassador is a representative from a foreign country?

Patrick Henry: He was a famous speaker from Virginia, and is well known for having said, "Give me liberty or give me death." He did not attend the Constitutional Convention because he was against the idea of a strong central government.

John Jay: He was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers from 1787 to 1788, and the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1789 to 1795.

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d. What are the words to the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States?
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.

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e. Explain "separation of branches" and "checks and balances."
The Constitution of the United States delegates certain powers to certain branches in order to "separate" the branches of government. The legislative branch (Congress) makes the laws. The executive branch (President) enforces the laws. The judicial branch (Supreme Court) interprets the laws.

Each of the three branches of government performs "checks and balances" on the other branches so one branch does not become too powerful. For example, all three branches play a role in a bill becoming a law. Here is how it works:

Legislative Branch: A bill is introduced in either chamber of the Congress (the House of Representatives or the Senate). Both chambers of Congress must pass the bill by a simple majority (over 50%). If Congress does not pass the bill, the bill dies. If Congress passes the bill, it goes to the president.

Executive Branch: If the president signs the bill, it becomes law. If the president vetoes the bill, it does not become law.

Legislative Branch: A bill can still become law after the president vetoes it. If both chambers of Congress pass the bill by a two-thirds vote, the bill becomes law. This is known as "overriding a veto."

Judicial Branch: Once a bill becomes law, it is can be interpreted by the courts. The Supreme Court is the highest court. The Supreme Court determines whether a law is constitutional or unconstitutional. If a law is declared unconstitutional, then the law is struck down.

Legislative Branch: If a law has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the Congress can introduce a new bill, and the process of passing a bill begins at the beginning.

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f. Use five of the words in Section 2 in a sentence.
Answers will vary. Here are sample sentences from our young readers:
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees free speech.

Delaware was one of the thirteen American Colonies.

George W. Bush is the head of the Executive branch because he is the president.

The U.S. Supreme Court is part of the Judicial branch.

The U.S. Government is made up of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches.

The Constitution was ratified by three-fourths of the states.

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g. Have a parent or friend give you a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.

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More Valuable Information about the U.S. Constitution:
IMA Hero™ American Revolution History
IMA Hero™ U.S. Government Bookstore
IMA Hero™ Constitution of the United States Links
IMA Hero™ U.S. Government & Washington, D.C. Links

Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids (Government Printing Office)
The Constitution of the United States (Library of Congress)
The Constitution of the United States (National Archives)
Bill of Rights (National Archives)
Amendments 11 - 27 (National Archives)
Founding Fathers (National Archives)
Independence National Historical Park
The Federalist Papers (Library of Congress)

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