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Chapter 3 Government




Chapter Summary

Section 1:        Structure and Principles


Section 2:        Three Branches of Government


Section 3:        Amending the Constitution


Section 4:        The Amendments




Section 1:        Structure and Principles


Structure  of Government

The U.S. Constitution is divided into three parts: the preamble, seven divisions called articles, and the 27 amendments.


The Preamble explains why the constitution was written and the purpose of government




Article I establishes the legislative branch (Congress)

  • Section 1 creates the Congress.

  • Sections 2 and 3 set forth details about the two houses of Congress: the

               House of Representatives and the Senate (bicameral legislature).



Article II creates an executive branch to carry out laws created by Congress.

Its sections outline the detail of presidential powers, describe required presidential qualifications, and provide for a vice president.


Article III creates a judicial branch.

  • Section I establishes a Supreme Court to head the judicial branch.

  • Section 2 outlines the jurisdiction, or authority, of the Supreme Court and

               other federal courts.



  • Section 3 defines treason.


Article IV explains the relationship of the states to one another and to the national government.



Article V spells out the ways the Constitution can be amended.



Article VI contains the supremacy clause, establishing that the Constitution, laws passed by Congress, and treaties of the United States shall be the supreme Law of the Land.


Article VII addresses ratification and declares that the Constitution would take effect after it was ratified by nine states.


The Amendments are the changes made to the Constitution.



The Constitution rests on six major principles of government:



Popular sovereignty—rule by the people.


Federalism—power is divided between national and state governments.


Separation of powers—limits the central government by dividing power among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches


Checks and balances—each branch of government exercises some control over the others.   For example, the president can check Congress by rejecting— vetoing—its legislation.




Judicial review—the power of the courts to say that laws and actions of local, state, or national governments are invalid when they conflict with the Constitution.


Limited government—lists the powers the government is allowed and the powers that are prohibited to it.





Section 2:        Three Branches of Government


The Legislative Branch

Ø  The Founders limited the powers of Congress toexpressed powers, powers directly stated in the Constitution.

Ø  Most expressed powers are enumerated powers (Listed), itemized by numbers 1 through 18.


Ø  Five of the enumerated powers deal with economic matters—the power to:

  • levy taxes,

  • borrow money,

  • regulate commerce,

  • coin money, and

  • punish counterfeiting.


Ø  Seven enumerated powers provide for defense, including the power to declare war, raise and support armed forces, and organize the militia.

Ø  Additional enumerated powers give Congress the power to naturalize citizens and establish post offices and courts.

Ø  The final enumerated power is the elastic clause, which lets Congress stretch its powers to meet situations the Founders could not anticipate.


The Executive Branch

  • The president is the head of the executive branch.

  • Article II grants the presidency broad and vague powers.

  • Sections 2 and 3 of Article II define the specific powers of the presidency:

  • The president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and the state


  • With the consent of the Senate, the president appoints heads of the

               executive departments.

  • The president can pardon people convicted of federal crimes, except in

                cases of impeachment.

  • The president makes treaties with foreign nations with the Senate’s advice

                and consent (The Senate must approve all treaties and appointments of Cabinet members and Supreme Court Justices.  This is an example of checks and balances).


Ø  With the Senate’s consent, the president appoints ambassadors, federal court judges, and other top officials.

Ø  The president delivers an annual State of the Union message, and other messages, to Congress from time to time.

Ø  The president calls Congress into special session when necessary.

Ø  The president meets with heads of state, ambassadors, and other foreign officials.

Ø  The president commissions all military officers of the United States.

Ø  The president ensures that the laws passed by Congress are “faithfully executed.”

Ø  Unlike early presidents, modern presidents have a vastfederal bureaucracy (organization with many levels) made up of all executive branch employees (over 3 million civilians).



The Judicial Branch


The American judiciary is made up of two different court systems:

  • the federal court system whose powers derive from the Constitution and federal laws, and

  • the courts of the 50 states whose powers derive from the various state constitutions and their laws.

Two factors determine federal jurisdiction:

  • the subject matter of the case, and

  • who is involved in the case.


Marbury v. Madison established the principle of judicial review and elevated the Supreme Court to a status that balanced the legislative and executive branches.


  • When ruling on constitutional issues, the Supreme Court cannot be overturned except by a constitutional amendment.

  • Congress can effectively overturn a Supreme Court decision on a federal statute by enacting a new law.

Shared Power and Conflict


"By the Numbers: Automatic spending cuts"


By Amy Roberts, CNN Library updated 9:31 AM EST, Tue February 19, 2013

Ø  The executive branch provides plans for many of the laws that Congress considers.


Ø  There are several sources of conflict between the executive and legislative branches, including:

o   the expanding power of the presidency,

o   congressional responsibility to monitor how the executive branch enforces the law, and

o   different goals, constituents (voter with a district), and philosophy of government.

o   Congress can create lower federal courts and limit the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.

o   Some Supreme Court decisions require action of the president. In rare cases a president has refused to enforce the Court’s decision (President Jackson).



Section 3:        Amending the Constitution


The Amendment Process


Ø  The Founders provided for change to the Constitution with Article 5.


Ø Constitutional amendments may be proposed and ratified, or approved, in two ways:

  • a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, or

  • two-thirds of the states’ petition, or appeal to,


Ø  Congress to call a convention.

        In the 1980s and early 1990s, 32 state legislatures petitioned Congress for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment (revenue must equal spending – no more deficit spending).

        Congress has two methods for obtaining state approval when an amendment is proposed:

o   The legislatures in three-fourths of the states can ratify an amendment.

o   The states hold special conventions and need three-fourths of the conventions to approve it.

        Congress set a rule that says there is a time limit—seven years—for states to ratify an amendment.


Indirect Ways the Constitution Changes

        There are two indirect ways to adapt the Constitution for changing times:

o   Changes through law

o   For example, Article I gives Congress the power to “lay and collect taxes” but does not spell out the practical details.


Passing tax laws is one way Congress has expanded the scope of its power.

     Changes through practices

          For example, Article II says the Congress may impeach, or accuse, federal officials and remove them from office, but is vague on the types of crimes.   (Remember – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached but neither one was removed from office by the Senate).  PS – Richard Nixon was not impeached for Watergate, he resigned prior to the vote of impeachment and was subsequently pardoned by President Ford.

          Interpreting Article II is one way Congress can adapt the Constitution.

        Informal Presidential Changes

        The actions of presidents have affected the interpretation of the Constitution.

        Modern presidents often conduct foreign affairs by executive agreement—agreements between heads of states—instead of the treaty process specified in the Constitution.


Court Decisions


        Through judicial review, the Supreme Court plays a key role in interpreting the meaning of

words and phrases in the Constitution.

        Those who support judicial restraint believe that the Court should avoid taking initiative on social and political issues.

        Those who support judicial activism believe that the Court should actively help settle difficult social and political questions.


Changes Through Custom and Use

  • The Constitution can be changed informally through customs that develop

                over time.

  • Political parties are a good example of a custom not mentioned in the

               Constitution that affects elections and congressional conduct.



Section 4:        The Amendments

The Bill of Rights



            The Bill of Rights protects individual rights by limiting government power.


            The First Amendment protects the right of Americans to worship as they please, or to have no religion at all.  The First Amendment also protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

          The American press is not subject to prior restraint, meaning government cannot censor information before it is published or broadcast.

          Freedom of speech is not unlimited— there are laws prohibiting slander and libel.


            The Second Amendment ensures citizens and the nation the right to security.

          Though it seems to support the right to own firearms, it does not prevent Congress from regulating the interstate sale of weapons.


            The Third Amendment prohibits the government from forcing people to provide shelter for soldiers in their homes, a British practice before the Revolution.


            The Fourth Amendment limits the government’s power to conduct searches and seizures by protecting the right to privacy.

          To be lawful, a search or arrest must be based on probable cause—a reasonable basis to believe a person or premises are linked to a crime.

          A search or an arrest usually requires a search warrant or arrest warrant.



            The Fifth Amendment contains four important protections for people accused of crimes:

          No one can be tried for a serious crime unless a grand jury has decided there is enough evidence to justify a trial.

          A person found innocent may not be tried again for the same offense.

          No one may be forced to testify against himself or herself.

         Due process of law.

        Eminent domain



            The Sixth Amendment gives an accused person several rights, including:

1.     Speedy and public trial by an impartial jury

2.     Informed of nature and cause of the crime

(ex. You are under arrest for __________)

3.     to be confronted with the witnesses (right to face your accuser)

4.     compulsory process for obtaining witnesses (right to subpoena witnesses)

5.     assistance of counsel for defense (right to a lawyer)



           The Seventh Amendment provides for the right to a jury trial in federal courts to settle all disputes about property worth more than $20.


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            The Eighth Amendment:

          prohibits excessive bail.

          prevents excessive fines.

          bans “cruel and unusual  punishment” for crimes.





  • The Ninth Amendment states that all other rights not spelled out in the Constitution are “retained by the people.”




  • The Tenth Amendment states that “powers not delegated to the United States…nor prohibited…to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”


Other Amendments



  • The Eleventh Amendment prohibits a state from being sued in federal court by   

               citizens of another state or of another nation.


  • The Twelfth Amendment requires the Electoral College to use separate ballots in

                voting for president and vice president.


  • The Thirteenth Amendment outlaws slavery.


  • The Fourteenth Amendment protects the rights of all citizens by prohibiting a state

               from depriving a person of life, liberty or property without “due process of law.”


  • The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits the government from denying a person’s right

                 to vote on the basis of race.


  • The Sixteenth Amendment gives Congress the power to levy individual income



  • The Seventeenth Amendment says that the people, not state legislatures, elect

               United States senators directly.


  • The Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of

               alcoholic beverages, concluding a crusade to abolish the use of liquor that began in

               the 1830s.


  • The Nineteenth Amendment guarantees women the right to vote.


  • The Twentieth Amendment sets new dates for when the president and vice

                president are inaugurated and when Congress begins its term.   This

                prevented long periods of ineffective outgoing officials, or “lame ducks.”


  • The Twenty-first Amendment repeals the unsuccessful Eighteenth Amendment.


  • The Twenty-second Amendment limits presidents to a maximum of two elected



  • The Twenty-third Amendment gave the District of Columbia three presidential

               electors, the number it would receive if it were a state.


  • The Twenty-fourth Amendment prohibits poll taxes—taxes that are paid in order

               to vote—in federal elections.


  • The Twenty-fifth Amendment establishes a process for the vice president to take

                over the office of president if that person is disabled and lays down the

                process for filling the vice presidency if that office becomes vacant.


  • The Twenty-sixth Amendment lowers the voting age in federal and state elections

                to 18.


  • The Twenty-seventh Amendment makes congressional pay raises effective during

                the term following their passage. 










Driving somewhere? There's a government record of that  





How does this issue relate to the Bill of Rights?




Attorney/Client Privilege

In United States v. Finazzo, the Eastern District of New York confirmed the recent court

trend that an employee has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his/her work e-mail account

even when, for example, it includes personal, privileged communications with an attorney. In

this case,