The structure of the Constitution

The original Constitution contains seven articles.

· Article 1 — Despite the misgivings of the federalists about the power of state legislatures, it was inevitable that the legislature, as the representative body of the people, would have to be pre-eminent. Hence it was accorded the status of Article 1 , but its powers were precisely defined, to ensure as far as possible that it did not pose a threat to the entire system.

· Article 2 — An effective executive branch was seen as vital if the federal government was to succeed and, within the constraints of a constitutional republic, it posed much less of a threat of tyranny than an English monarch, with the consequence that the powers of the office needed to be less closely defined than those of Congress.

· Article 3 — The judicial branch was famously described by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 78 as 'the least dangerous' branch, and its power was accordingly even more vaguely defined than the executive's.

· Article 4 — sets out the relationship between the states to make them more a united whole, and less like independent countries.

· Article 5 — sets out the process for amending the constitution.

· Article 6 — confirmed that any state debt already incurred remained valid under the new constitution, and asserted that the constitution and the laws of the United States 'shall be the supreme Law of the Land'.Link to Article 6 explained

· Article 7 — describes the process of ratification.

Beyond this, the Constitution has only 27 changes, known as amendments. Most of these amendments can be seen as additions to the Constitution, creating new rules or requirements.

Some amendments represent major social change or are the end product of huge conflict, violence and death. Others make extremely important alterations, such as the 25th amendment (1967), passed after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, at the height of the Cold War. This amendment allows the vice president to become the president on a temporary basis.

The Bill of Rights

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The Bill of Rights is made up of the first ten amendments of the US Constitution. They were all passed in 1791, shortly after the Constitution was created.

A bill of rights is usually seen as a method of protecting the rights of the individual against government power. However, the US Bill of Rights also focuses on protecting the power of the states and individuals from the federal government. It's not until the 14th Amendent that these rights protect citizens from state governments. Several colonies were reluctant to join the newly created USA and a discussion of new provisions helped to reduce state concerns regarding the power of a new central government