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
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
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
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
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
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.
3. Was James Madison's
plan for the Constitution known as the Virginia Plan or the New
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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
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
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.
8. What is the Bill
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
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
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
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.
What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the
Amendment: A change in the Constitution
Colonies: Groups of people ruled
by an outside power
Executive: Concerning the president
Judicial: Concerning courts and
Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the
Following Questions for Your FREE
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
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
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.
c. Describe ONE of the
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
The U.S. Government is made up of the Legislative,
Executive, and Judicial
The Constitution was ratified
by three-fourths of the states.
g. Have a parent or friend give you
a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.
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