Chapter 3



Objectives of the Constitution

  • To more a more perfect union
  • To establish justice
  • To insure domestic tranquility
  • To provide for the common defense
  • To promote the general welfare, and
  • To secure the blessings of liberty


Major Factors Creating Longevity of the Constitution

·        The separation of powers of each branch of government

·        Checks and balances including a recognition that a simple majority vote may not be enough of a majority

·        A built in elastic clause as  part of Congress’s power

·        A reserved power clause giving the states power not delegated to the national government

·        Rights guarantied to the citizens

·        Precedents and traditions creating an unwritten constitution

·        Judicial review growing out of an interpretation of the power of the Supreme Court

·        An amending process which is flexible enough to allow for change even though it involves more than a majority vote

·        The inherent powers of the president

Legislative Powers

  • Connecticut Compromise created a bicameral legislation : House and Senate
  • States cannot pass term limit restrictions


      • 435 members based on 10 year census
      • 1 member per 550,000 people
        • “shadow” representatives for D.C and Guam
      • Each state gets a minimum of two representatives
        • Baker v. Carr “one man one vote”
      • Gerrymandering creating districts that favored the political party in power


·        25 years old

·        American citizen for 7 years

·        Inhabitant of the state that the congressman represents

·        2 year term


·        100 members (2 from each state)


§         30 years old

§         Nine years a citizen

§         A resident of the state that the senator represents

Congressional Powers

§         Collect taxes, pay debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare

§         Borrow money

§         Regulate commerce among the states and with foreign countries

§         Establish uniform laws dealing with immigration and naturalization and bankruptcies

§         Coin money

§         Make laws regarding the punishment for counterfeiting

§         Establish post offices

§         Make copyright laws

§         Establish federal courts in addition to the Supreme Court

§         Define and punish piracy

§         Declare war

§         Raise and support armies and a navy

§         Create a national guard

§         Implied powers: make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers


Executive Powers

  • 4 year term and are limited to 2 terms


§         35 years old

§         Natural born citizen

§         A resident of the U.S. for 14 years


§         To act as the commander in chief of the armed forces

§         Obtain information from members of the executive branch

§         Grant pardons

§         Make treaties with the consent of the senate

§         Appoint ambassadors, justices, and other officials with the advice and consent of the Senate

§         Sing a legislation or veto legislation

§         Give Congress a State of the Union report

§         Call special sessions of the Congress

§         Inherent power of the president

Vice President: preside over the Senate and be the deciding vote if there is a tie

Judicial Powers

            Term: Life

            Requirements: None although most come from other federal judgeships

  • Appointments from the President must be approved by the Senate
  • Most cases heard in the Supreme Court come from appeals from state and federal courts

Balance of Power

  • Checks and Balances
  • As of 1990 there have been 2500 presidential vetos with 100 of them being overridden

Features of our government and political system that have an impact on the size and function of the presidency

  • Role of political parties
  • Growth of federal bureaucracy
  • Development and expansion of the information superhighway and the role of media
  • Emergence of the U.S. as the last superpower, which puts tremendous responsibility on our country’s leaders



  • Relationship between states and federal government
  • Article IV “full faith and credit” – mutual respect and legality of laws, public records, and judicial decisions made by states
  • Each state is guaranteed a “Republican form of government”
  • Supremacy clause – “the Constitution , and the laws of the United States… shall be the supreme law of the land”
    • McCulloch v Maryland in 1819 judicial review
  • States have reserved powers
  • Congress cannot deny:
    • Write of habeas corpus
    • Right of appeal
    • Pass bill of attainder
    • Predetermined jail sentences imposed before a trial
  • The federal government can however put major restrictions on civil liberties during war times

Provision for Changes

  • Amendments can be classified in five ways:
    • Creating additional power for the federal government such as the legalization of progressive income tax
    • Limiting power to the state governments such as prohibiting states from making laws that deny equal protection for its citizens
    • Adding ht right of popular sovereignty to various groups such as former slaves, women, and 18 year olds
    • Taking away and adding to the power of the voter to elect public officials
    • Changing the structure of government
  • Amend the Constitution
    • A 2/3 vote in both houses of Congress and ratification in ¾ of the state legislatures
    • 2/3 vote of Congress and a special ratifying convention in ¾ of the states

The Unwritten Constitution

  • Congress used the elastic clause to pass civil rights legislation, interpreted the meaning of interstate commerce, passed a war powers at
  • President interpreted the Constitution to allow for executive privilege, ability to protect personal material
  • The Constitution does not say anything about political parties, nominating conventions, or primaries
  • Supreme court went beyond the constitutional parameters in establishing judicial review
  • Custom and tradition play an important role ex. Cabinet


  • Bicameral Legislature: A legislature consisting of 2 houses.
  • Checks and Balances: a key aspect of the Constitution of the United States protecting the balance of power among the three branches of government.  The concept was first promoted by James Madison in the Federalist Papers.
  • Concurrent Power: Power shared by the state and federal government, such as the power to tax.
  • Elastic clause: Found in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution, it gives Congress the power to make “all laws necessary and proper” to carry out the other defined powers of Congress.
  • Electoral college: Consists of presidential electors from each state.  The number of electors is based on the state’s population.  The states with the greatest population have the most electoral votes.  When the voter casts a vote fro the president, in reality the vote goes to one of the presidential electors designated by the candidate in that state.  The number of electors for each state equals the number of senators and representatives         
  • Enumerated powers: Delegated powers of Congress, including the power to collect taxes, pay debts, provide the common defense and general welfare and general welfare, regulate commerce along the states, coin money, and declare war.
  • Ex post facto laws: Laws that take effect after the act takes place.  Congress is prohibited from enacting this type of legislation. 
  • Executive privilege:  The ability of the president to protect personal material.
  • Federalism: The overall division of power between the federal government and state government; as defined in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution.  It specifically tells the states they have reserved powers.  Powers not delegated to the government by the Constitution are given to respective states. 
  • Full faith and credit: Phrase used to describe the mutual respect and legality of laws, public records, and judicial decision made by states. 
  • Implied power: A power that is reasonably necessary and appropriate to carry out the purposes of a power expressly granted; A power that is not specifically delegated to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution but that is implied by the necessary and proper clause to be delegated for the purpose of carrying out the enumerated powers.
  • Inherent power: Assumed powers of the president not specifically listed in the Constitution.  Inherent powers are derived from the president’s role as chief executive. 
  • Judicial review: The principle by which courts can declare acts of either the executive branch or the legislative branch unconstitutional.
  • Preamble: The introduction to the Constitution, outlining the goals of the document.
  • Privileges and immunities: The guarantees that the rights of citizens in one state will be respected by other states.  Also a clause in the 14th Amendment that protects citizens from abuses by a state.
  • Reserved Power Amendment: Found in the 10th amendment of the Constitution, this explains the powers that the states are specifically granted, which are called the reserved powers.
  • Separation of powers: originally developed by Montesquieu in The Spirit of Natural Laws written during the Enlightenment and used by James Madison in Federalist No. 48. This important doctrine resulted in the est. of three separate branches of government- the legislative, executive and judicial branches, each having distinct and unique powers.
  • Supremacy clause: Clause that states “the Constitution and all laws of the United States… shall be the supreme law of the land.”
  • Unwritten constitution: traditions, precedent, and practice incorporated into our form of government that add to the Constitution’s elasticity and its viability.  Political parties, the president’s cabinet, political action comities, and the federal bureaucracy are important examples.   
  • Writ of habeas corpus: A writ that states the accused person must be presented physically before the court with a statement demonstrating sufficient cause for arrest. Thus, no accuser may imprison someone indefinitely without bringing that person and the charges against him or her into a courtroom.  Basically, the court must inform a person what they are being arrested for.