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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Separation of powers among three branches of government is a central principle in the U.S. Constitution. According to Articles 1, 2, and 3, the Congress makes laws, the President as chief executive enforces them, and the federal judges interpret them in specific cases.
Supreme Court Decisions that Shaped the Constitution- Judicial Review: Marbury v. Madison (1803). On the last night of his Presidency, John Adams appointed a number of Federalists to office, just before Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans assumed power.
The new Constitution recognized that the debts of the previous government under the Articles of Confederation were still valid. If a state law is in conflict with federal law, federal law must prevail.
The Constitution establishes that the President of the United States has the power to run the executive branch of the government. This section, later modified by the Twelfth Amendment, establishes the Electoral College (the process by which the President and Vice President are elected).
Unlike the Articles of Confederation, which needed the unanimous consent of the thirteen states to make changes in the structure of the government, the Constitution required ratification by only nine of the states for the new government to go into effect.
The pivotal Supreme Court cases described in this book remind us that our constitutional system places change and continuity in constant tension. And that is just what the framers of the Constitution intended.
The Ninth Amendment offers a constitutional safety net, intended to make it clear that Americans have other fundamental rights beyond those listed in the Bill of Rights.
During the debates on the adoption of the Constitution, opponents (Anti-Federalists) charged that the proposed document gave too much power to the central government and not enough protection to individual rights. They demanded a “bill of rights,” and several state ratifying conventions asked for amendments to the Constitution.
In Article I, sections 2 and 9 the U.S. Constitution said that no direct taxes could be imposed unless made in proportion to the population, as measured by the census. This meant that rather than taxing individuals directly, Congress had to levy taxes in each state based on the state’s population.
Nothing in the original Constitution limited the number of terms that a President could serve, but the nation’s first President, George Washington, set a precedent by declining to run for a third term, suggesting that two four-year terms were enough for any President.
Constitutionalism is a way of thinking about the relationship between the rulers and the ruled in a community. It combines two concepts, limited government and the rule of law, that permeate the constitution, a country’s framework for government.
The right of privacy—the right to be left alone, as Justice Louis Brandeis once defined it—is fundamental to our understanding of freedom, but nowhere does the Constitution mention it. When Congress submitted the Bill of Rights to the people for ratification in 1789, privacy was not listed as a liberty that required protection from government.
The Seventh and Eighth Amendments add to the Constitution’s protections for individuals in the judicial system.
Delegates to the Constitutional Convention- Connecticut: Oliver Ellsworth (1745–1807) was born in Windsor, Connecticut. He attended Yale, graduated from the College of New Jersey (which later became Princeton), and studied law. He served in the Connecticut General Assembly, and the Continental Congress.
On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy waited at the Press Street railroad depot in New Orleans. He had a first-class ticket for a thirty-mile trip to Covington, Louisiana. The train arrived on time at 4:15 in the afternoon, and the nicely dressed, well-groomed young man entered the first-class carriage, took a seat, gave his ticket to the conductor, and boldly spoke words that led to his arrest and trial in a court of law.
Although it was created primarily to deal with the civil rights issues that followed the abolition of slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment has affected a broad range of American life, from business regulation to civil liberties to the rights of criminal defendants.