Every society sets rules to live by. Our Constitution established the United States government and determined its relationship with the people and the individual states.
Liberals and conservatives alike have decried “judicial activism,” whenever rulings went against them. Despite these complaints, the Supreme Court has reserved the final word on whether the actions of the executive and legislative branches comply with the Constitution.
Monarchs ruled the nations of the world when the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787. Some monarchies, such as the one that ruled Great Britain, also had parliaments in which the people and the aristocracy were represented. As parliamentary systems developed, they combined legislative and executive functions, with the prime minister and other cabinet members serving as members of Parliament. This differs sharply from the separation of powers established in our Constitution.
Since the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—was adopted in 1791, Congress has passed an additional twenty-three amendments, of which the states have ratified only seventeen. Such statistics indicate the magnitude of difficulty in amending the U.S. Constitution.
Surveys show that alarming numbers of Americans are unaware of the full extent of their constitutional rights. Some people readily admit that they do not know what rights are included in the Constitution and its first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights. Other Americans have expressed the opinion that the Constitution went too far in granting such rights as free speech and free press and that society should be able to restrict opinions and behavior with which the majority disapproves.
This resource is a bibliography for those interested in reading more about the rights and responsibilities of citizens enumerated in the Constitution.
Like many Supreme Court cases, the great case of Marbury v. Madison began simply. William Marbury and three other people did not receive appointments as justices of the peace for the District of Columbia. Their claim before the Court was the result of a general effort by the outgoing administration of President John Adams to place its Federalist supporters in newly created judicial positions.
The framers of the Constitution separated the powers of government into three branches, granting legislative power (the power to pass laws) to Congress, executive power (the power to administer the laws) to the President, and judicial power (the power to interpret laws and decide legal disputes) to the courts.
The National Constitution Center site provides classroom resources related to the Constitution as well as civic participation and responsibility, and the executive branch. Online resources include interactive games, videos, webcasts, primary and secondary sources, Constitution Fast Facts, biographies of Constitutional Convention delegates, and the Interactive Constitution guide.
A constitution is the basic law and general plan of government or a people within a country. The purposes, powers, and limitations of government are prescribed in the constitution. It thus sets forth the way people are governed or ruled.
This page provides a list of historic sites and museums related to the Constitution, as well as what resources visitors will find at each location.
This annotated list provides citations and brief descriptions of important Supreme Court decisions, presented in an A–Z format. Most of the cases are related in some way to the topics and cases treated in the chapters of this book. In addition, this list includes every case—except those already emphasized in the chapters— mentioned in the social studies standards of the state departments of education throughout the United States.
During the early years of the nineteenth century, many Americans were primarily loyal to their state rather than to the United States of America. Luther Martin of Maryland, for example, often spoke of Maryland as “my country.”
In 1857 the Supreme Court refused to grant Dred Scott’s petition for freedom from slavery. In the 1830s, Dred Scott had moved from St. Louis with his owner, Dr. Emerson, to the free state of Illinois. After Emerson’s death, Scott returned to St. Louis with the doctor’s widow.
A constitution is the basic law and general plan of government for a people within a country. The purposes, powers, and limitations of government are prescribed in the constitution. It thus sets forth the way a people is governed or ruled. A constitution is the supreme law of a country. Laws later enacted by the
This video tells the story of the origins of the Magna Carta and explores the two most important principles that it symbolizes: rule of law and due process. Students will learn how the framers interpreted and redefined the rule of law and due process when they created our Constitution.
Realizing that over time the nation would want to make changes to the Constitution, its framers established a process to allow that to happen. Unlike laws and regulations that can be passed by simple majorities in Congress, the Constitution is more difficult to change.
Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen G. Breyer answer questions from students about why we need a written Constitution and what it says about the Supreme Court and its rulings.
Justices Breyer and Scalia debate their different theories on how to interpret the Constitution and how they are applied to cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Students will learn about the principles that undergird the Magna Carta and how they have influenced important legal documents. More specifically, students will evaluate the Magna Carta’s impact on the U.S. Constitution.
This book takes an in-depth look at the Constitution, annotated with detailed explanations of its terms and contents. Included are texts of primary source materials, sidebar material on each article and amendment, profiles of Supreme Court cases, and timelines.
Does the U.S. Constitution protect an individual’s right to privacy? Many Americans think it does. Others say it does not. The word “privacy” cannot be found in the U.S. Constitution.
This video describes the Constitution Project film series and shows teachers how to use the award-winning films in their classrooms. The films feature insightful commentary from Supreme Court justices and legal scholars, interviews with the plaintiffs and attorneys in landmark Supreme Court cases as well as historical footage.
This video tells the story of the origins of the Magna Carta and explores the two most important principles that it symbolizes: rule of law and due process. Students will learn how the framers interpreted and redefined the rule of law and due process when they created our Constitution. And they will understand how those rights have been expanded and protected by the U.S. Supreme Court through two landmark Supreme Court cases: U.S. v. Nixon and Powell v. Alabama.
The first section of the film “Key Constitutional Concepts” examines the creation of the U.S. Constitution and why it was needed. Before viewing the film, students are asked to respond to a key question, which will set a conversation in motion for the whole lesson.