Preamble: Statement of purpose
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
One: Legislative power
Section 1. All
legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the
United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of
shall have power...(enumerated list of powers) To make all laws which
shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing
powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the
government of the United States, or in any department or officer
all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into
execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this
Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any
department or officer thereof.
Section 1: President and Vice President
Clause 1: Executive power
Clause 2: Method of choosing electors
Clause 3: Electors
(Note: This procedure was
changed by the Twelfth Amendment in 1804.)
Clause 4: Election day
Clause 5: Qualifications for office
Clause 6: Vacancy and Disability
Clause 7: Salary
Clause 8: Oath or Affirmation"Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of
my Ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Article 2 description continues at:
Article Three: Judicial power
Article Three describes the court
system (the judicial branch), including the Supreme Court. The
article requires that there be one court called the Supreme Court;
Congress, at its discretion, can create lower courts, whose judgments
and orders are reviewable by the Supreme Court. Article Three also
creates the right to trial by jury in all criminal cases, defines the
crime of treason, and charges Congress with providing for a punishment
for it. It also sets the kinds of cases that may be heard by the
federal judiciary, which cases the Supreme Court may hear first (called
original jurisdiction), and that all other cases heard by the Supreme
Court are by appeal under such regulations as the Congress shall make.
Article Four: States' powers and limits
Article Four describes the relationship between the states and the Federal government and amongst the states. For instance, it requires states to give "full faith and credit" to the public acts, records and court proceedings of the other states. Congress is permitted to regulate the manner in which proof of such acts, records or proceedings may be admitted. The "privileges and immunities" clause prohibits state governments from discriminating against citizens of other states in favor of resident citizens (e.g., having tougher penalties for residents of Ohio convicted of crimes within Michigan). It also establishes extradition between the states, as well as laying down a legal basis for freedom of movement and travel amongst the states. Today, this provision is sometimes taken for granted, especially by citizens who live near state borders; but in the days of the Articles of Confederation, crossing state lines was often a much more arduous (and costly) process. Article Four also provides for the creation and admission of new states. The Territorial Clause gives Congress the power to make rules for disposing of Federal property and governing non-state territories of the United States. Finally, the fourth section of Article Four requires the United States to guarantee to each state a republican form of government, and to protect the states from invasion and violence.
Article Five: Process of amendments
Article Five describes the process necessary to amend the Constitution. It establishes two methods of proposing amendments: by Congress or by a national convention requested by the states. Under the first method, Congress can propose an amendment by a two-thirds vote (of a quorum, not necessarily of the entire body) of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. Under the second method, two-thirds (2/3) of the state legislatures may convene and "apply" to Congress to hold a national convention, whereupon Congress must call such a convention for the purpose of considering amendments. To date, only the first method (proposal by Congress) has been used.
Once proposed—whether submitted by Congress or by a national
convention—amendments must then be ratified by three-fourths (3/4) of
the states to take effect. Article Five gives Congress the option of
requiring ratification by state legislatures or by special conventions
assembled in the states. The convention method of ratification has been
used only once (to approve the 21st Amendment). Article Five currently
places only one limitation on the amending power—that no amendment can
deprive a state of its equal representation in the Senate without that
state's consent (limitations regarding slavery and taxation having
expired in 1808).
Article Six: Federal power
Article Six establishes the Constitution, and the laws and treaties of the United States made in accordance with it, to be the supreme law of the land, and that "the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the laws or constitutions of any state notwithstanding." It also validates national debt created under the Articles of Confederation and requires that all federal and state legislators, officers, and judges take oaths or affirmations to support the Constitution. This means that the states' constitutions and laws should not conflict with the laws of the federal constitution—and that in case of a conflict, state judges are legally bound to honor the federal laws and constitution over those of any state.
Article Six also states "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States".
Article Seven: Ratification
Article Seven sets forth the requirements for ratification of the Constitution. The Constitution would not take effect until at least nine states had ratified the Constitution in state conventions specially convened for that purpose, and it would only apply to those states which ratified it. (See above Drafting and ratification requirements.)
Provisions for changing the Constitution
The Constitution provides for direct modification through the
amendment process. Soon after the Constitution was passed, however,
[Marbury v. Madison] provides the Supreme Court to interpret the law
and the Constitution through the process of judicial review.
Or view: http://www.foundingfathers.info/documents/constitution.html