The Constitutional breakdown.
In essence, the Constitution is the most important document in America. It lays down the law, from checks and balances to citizen's personal rights. Below are some examples. Click on the down arrow to see the text.
How the Constitution was made
The Constitution was written in 1787 by James Madison. Then, it was brought before delegates from the different states at the Continental Congress, where George Washington presided as deputy from Virginia and president. The delegates decided to throw the Articles of Confederation (America's old government layout) out the window and get a fresh start. They argued, and argued, and argued. Some delegates thought that there should be a large central government to balance out the states. These men were called Federalists. Some important Federalists were people like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. Other delegates thought that the Constitution needed to give the states more power and freedom. They were called Anti-Federalists. Important Anti-Federalists included Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. The delegates from around the country finally came to a stopping point with the Constitution in late summer of 1787. They had created and signed into action the world's first Constitution, America's governing document.
Article 1 of the Constitution lays down how the Legislative branch works. it has everything from elections to requirements to be elected. The first few sections tell about what the houses are made up of. Both branches have different requirements, terms, and qualifications.
The House of Representatives
Both houses have qualifications that you have to meet before hitting the ballots. Sections 2 and 3 of Article 1 show these requirements.
The House of Representatives
The Legislative Branch also controls impeachments. This is where the House of Representatives brings formal charges against the President for "High crimes and Misdemeanors." After the House brings the charges against the President, a trial is held in the Senate. These trials are pretty much like other trials, except that the person being tried is the President and the Senate is kind of like the jury. If 2/3 of the Senate decides that the President is guilty of said "High crimes and Misdemeanors," the President is thrown out of the top job, and the Vice President becomes the person in charge. No president has ever been impeached, but several have gotten close. Andrew Johnson kept the job by 1 vote in the 1860s. Other presidents who've been impeached but not thrown out are Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Trump was actually impeached twice, but the charges never got past the Senate.
The rest of Article 1 goes on to explain how things work around Congress. It shows how bills become law, gives Congress the power to collect taxes, borrow and coin money, to establish a postal service, to declare war, etc. Finally, the Legislative Branch has the power to make any law that is "necessary and proper" to improve the state of the USA. Before it becomes a law, the President has to sign it or veto it. Even if the President vetoes it, the House and Senate can turn that over with a 2/3 majority. After that, the Supreme Court has to decide if the law is Constitutional or not. If not, then they can throw the law out the window.
Article 2 of the Constitution lays the groundwork for the Executive Branch. The Executive is in charge of enforcing and defending the laws made by Congress. The Executive branch is headed by the President, and also includes the Cabinet. the Executive branch controls the military and some foreign policy, along with matters at home. The President is chosen by a nationwide election every 4 years. The maximum number of terms a president can serve is two. Like the Senate and the House of Representatives, there are requirements to becoming president. they include:
Must be 35+ years old
Must have lived in the USA for 14 years
Must be a natural born citizen of the USA
The President also appoints Supreme Court Justices and Ambassadors to other countries. he also appoints members of the Cabinet, like the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State. They are kind of like the President's micromanagers, each of them subjected to a specific task. Let's take our examples from earlier. The Secretary of Defense's job is to oversee the military. The Secretary of Defense has to be a regular citizen, so the US Armed Forces are basically controlled by civilians. The Secretary of State oversees foreign affairs. All of these people work together to preserve the US and the Constitution.
Article 3 builds the Judicial Branch of the government. The Judicial Branch is the largest, and includes ALL of the US courts. The Court system is set up like a pyramid, going from most common to most exclusive. At the bottom is the local courts, which are the courts you have to go if you need to get a ticket verified or a trial for a minor crime. More major crimes, like robbery or murder go to the District Courts, which are the next step on the pyramid. Above them are the US Courts of Appeals. Appeal means applying to get your case heard in a higher court. If you get a verdict on a case that you think is wrong, you can appeal your case up the pyramid. So far, all of the Courts that have been talked about are staffed by judges. At the top of the pyramid is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is staffed by 9 justices, all who are appointed the President, confirmed by the Senate, and serve for life, or until they retire. The Justices then appoint one of them to be Chief Justice. The Supreme Court has a lot to do. If a case makes its way all the way up the appeal pyramid, the Supreme Court will only take the case if it has something to do with part of the Constitution. For example, Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka. The Supreme Court's decision with Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the idea of segregation in the South. The Supreme Court's ruling was that facilities for blacks and whites could be separate but equal. In hindsight, we know that the conditions were anything but equal. Later, Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka overturned that decision and integrated the schools and social areas.
The beginning of Article 4 states how some state laws will work. For instance, all citizens are entitled to all immunities and privileges of anyone in any other state. Then, it goes on to explain how things will go down if you are charged with treason, a felony, or other crime in one state and run away to another. The state you ran into has to give you back to the state you were charged in. Article 4 also gives guidelines for new states applying for statehood. It gives rules like a new state can't form in a junction between two or more states without the consent of those 2 or more state legislatures. Also, it enumerates the power of the US government to make rules for US territories. Finally, it gives any state in the US the right to a state government, protection, and a say in Congress.
The entire point of Article 5 is to enumerate the amendment process. An amendment to the Constitution is really hard to come by. First, someone in Congress has an idea for an amendment. Then, 2/3 of both houses need to deem it necessary to continue. Then, the amendment has to be ratified by 3/4 of the state legislatures. Thousands of amendments have been proposed, but only 27 have gotten into the Constitution as law. James Madison wrote up the first ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. They include the right to remain silent, the right to bear arms, the right to no cruel or unusual punishment, and so on. There is another way to get amendments passed. If 2/3 of the states apply for a Constitutional Convention, then amendments can be proposed there. However, the Constitution never lays the guidelines for what can be done at a Constitutional Convention. Could the States rewrite the whole Constitution, or could they only get the amendment they applied for? This uncertainty leads many states to believe in not having a Constitutional Convention.
Article 6 covers 3 main topics: debts, laws, and oaths. At the beginning of the Article, the Framers stated that all debts and engagements entered before the adoption of the Constitution will be valid in the Constitution. Secondly, the Article explains that the Constitution, all laws made by the government in pursuance of the Constitution, and all treaties are the supreme law of the land. This means that nobody, not even the president are above the law.
The entire point of Article 7 is that the Constitution is law if 9/13 of the states ratify it. Obviously, this happened, or I wouldn't be making this website right now.