Government in the United States
Standard(s) of Learning
||The student will demonstrate knowledge of the Constitution of the United States by
||examining the ratification debates and The Federalist;
||identifying the purposes for government stated in the Preamble;
||examining the fundamental principles upon which the Constitution of the United States is based, including the rule of law, consent of the governed, limited government, separation of powers, and federalism;
||illustrating the structure of the national government outlined in Article I, Article II, and Article III;
||describing the amendment process.
||The student will demonstrate knowledge of civil liberties and civil rights by
||examining the Bill of Rights, with emphasis on First Amendment freedoms;
||analyzing due process of law expressed in the 5th and 14th Amendments;
||explaining selective incorporation of the Bill of Rights;
||exploring the balance between individual liberties and the public interest;
||explaining every citizen’s right to be treated equally under the law.
Using the following information, evaluate how the debates over ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America focused on power given to the national government and how the amount of power given to the national government polarized the ratification debates:
• Nine of thirteen states needed to ratify constitution
• Suspicious of a strong central government
• Wanted bill of rights to protect personal liberties
• Believed that a strong central government was the best way to protect freedom
Explain that The Federalist was a series of essays supporting adoption of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Explain that the purpose of government is established in the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Identify the purposes for government as stated in the Preamble:
• To form a more perfect union
• To establish justice
• To ensure domestic tranquility
• To provide for the common defense
• To promote the general welfare
• To secure the blessings of liberty
Using the following information, evaluate the fundamental principles contained in the Constitution of the United States of America:
• Consent of the governed: People are the only source of governmental power.
• Limited government: The government may do only those things that the people have given it the power to do.
• Separation of powers: Government is divided into three branches— legislative, executive, and judicial.
• Checks and balances: This is a system whereby each branch of government exercises some control on the others.
• Federalism: In this form of government, powers are divided between the national government and state governments.
Rule of law: The Constitution of the United States of America is supreme and all individuals are accountable under the law.
Describe how Articles I, II, and III of the Constitution of the United States of America establishes three co-equal branches of government.
Use the following information as a guide:
Organization of the national government
• Article I establishes the legislative branch of the national government setting forth the two houses of Congress to make laws.
• Article II establishes the executive branch to carry out the laws passed by Congress.
• Article III creates the United States Supreme Court and empowers Congress to establish lower Federal Courts to interpret the laws.
Using the following information, evaluate how the amendment process provides a way that the Constitution of the United States of America can remain responsive to the needs of a changing nation:
• Amendment: A formal revision to the Constitution, responding to needs of a changing nation
• National amendment procedure (Article V)
To propose an amendment
• Requires a 2/3 vote of both Houses of Congress
• Requires a national convention requested by 2/3 of state legislatures
To ratify an amendment
• Approval by 3/4 of state legislatures
• Acceptance by conventions in 3/4 of states
Explain that to date, there have been 27 amendments to the original Constitution.
Explain that civil liberties are freedoms upon which the government may not infringe.
Explain that the Bill of Rights is composed of the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. It guarantees the rights of individuals and expresses limitations on federal and state governments.
Identify First Amendment freedoms:
• Government may not establish an official religion, nor endorse, or unduly interfere with the free exercise of religion.
• Individuals are free to express their opinions and beliefs.
• The press is free to gather and publish information, including that which criticizes the government.
• Individuals may peacefully gather.
• Individuals have the freedom to make their views known to public officials.
Explain that the Bill of Rights protects citizens from:
• Unreasonable search and seizures
• Double jeopardy
• Cruel and unusual punishment
Using the following information, analyze how the selective incorporation of the Bill of Rights through the 14th Amendment (due process of law clause) greatly enhances the protection of civil rights and extends the Bill of Rights protections to state proceedings:
• Beginning in the twentieth century, the Supreme Court used the 14th Amendment (due process of law clause) to limit state actions, just as the Bill of Rights limits the national government.
• The Supreme Court has incorporated in the due process clause all of the provisions of the Bill of Rights except those of the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, and 10th Amendments and the grand jury requirement of the 5th Amendment.
Below is an annotated list of Internet resources for this organizing topic. Copyright restrictions may exist for the material on some Web sites. Please note and abide by any such restrictions.
“America’s Founding Fathers.” U.S. National Archives & Records Administration. <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/>. This government site features a brief biography of each of the Founding Fathers who served as delegates to the Constitutional Convention.
“Biographies of the Founding Fathers.” Colonial Hall. <http://colonialhall.com/biography.php>. This Web site features 103 biographical sketches of America's Founding Fathers divided into three groups: Signers of the Declaration, Signers of the Articles of Confederation, and Signers of the U.S. Constitution.
“The Founders’ Almanac.” <http://www.heritage.org/research/features/almanac>. This Web site provides quotes from the Founders, detailed biographies of selected Founders, and primary documents of the era. A section of the site allows users to search the database for important historical events or quotes of the Founders.
“The Founders’ Constitution.” <http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/>. This site offers many documents related to the fundamental elements of the U.S. Constitution and the basis for political authority.
Youth Leadership Initiative. <http://www.youthleadership.net>. This site provides information on a variety of governmental topics and is supported by The University of Virginia Center for Politics. It does require that you register to gain access to the material, but it is free of charge.