The Constitution Explained
is often hailed as a marvel of brevity and of clarity. It was, however,
written in the 18th century, and many of the ideas, concepts, words, phrases, and
euphemisms seem odd to us today, if not down right foreign.
But what of the Constitution itself? What does it mean? What does each article, each
This page is like a synopsis or summary of the Constitution, article by article, amendment
by amendment. This should not be taken as a substitute for the Constitution, but more
like a study guide.
to the Constitution has no force in law; instead, it establishes the "Why" of
the Constitution. Why is this document in existence? It reflects the desires of
to improve on the government they currently had (to be "more perfect" than the
), to ensure that that government would be just, and would protect its
citizens from internal strife and from attack from the outside. It would be of benefit to the
people, rather than to its detriment. And, perhaps as importantly, it intended to do the
same for the future generations of Americans.
establishes the first of the three branches of the government, the Legislature.
establishes the name of the Legislature to be The Congress, a bicameral, or
defines the House of Representatives, known as the lower house of Congress. It
establishes a few minimum requirements, like a 25-year-old age limit, and establishes
that the people themselves will elect the members for two years each. The members of
the House are divided among the states proportionally, or according to size, giving more
populous states more representatives in the House. The leader of the House is the Speaker
of the House, chosen by the members.
defines the upper house of Congress, the Senate. Again, it establishes some
minimum requirements, such as a 30-year-old age limit. Senators were originally
appointed by the legislatures of the individual states, though this later changed. They
serve for six years each. Each state has equal suffrage in the Senate, meaning that each
state has the exact same number of Senators, two each, regardless of the population. This
Section introduces the Vice-President, who is the leader of the Senate (called the
President of the Senate); the Vice-President does not vote unless there is a tie.