Did you know that the Constitution of the United States just had a birthday? It was created on September 17, 1787, so it is 227 years old! Happy birthday, Constitution! Here are some other facts you might not know about the Constitution:
It created our system of government.
The Constitution explains that the government of the United States will have three branches (parts). The Executive Branch is the President, the Vice President, and the Cabinet. The leaders of 15 government departments are in the Cabinet. These department leaders are called secretaries. For example, John Kerry is now the Secretary of State. Here’s a list of the 15 executive departments:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Defense
- Department of Education
- Department of Energy
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Homeland Security
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of the Interior
- Department of Justice
- Department of Labor
- Department of State
- Department of Transportation
- Department of the Treasury
- Department of Veterans Affairs
The Legislative Branch of the government is the Congress, which has two parts – the Senate and the House of Representatives. The people in the Senate are called senators. Each state has two senators who represent that state in the federal government. The people in the House of Representatives are called state representatives, delegates, or congressmen/congresswomen. The number of representatives for a state depends on the number of people living in that state. North Carolina has 13 delegates who represent the state in the House of Representatives. The Congress is responsible for making new laws.
The Judicial Branch of the government is the Supreme Court and other federal courts. There are nine judges in the Supreme Court, and their job is to decide what is legal (allowed, permitted) and illegal (not allowed, not permitted) based on the Constitution.
Other parts of the Constitution explain how decisions are made in the government and the rights and responsibilities of the states.
It has been changed 27 times.
Over the last 227 years, 27 amendments (changes) have been added to the Constitution. These amendments give people more rights, take some rights away, or make rights more clear. The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. These amendments tell us about the rights of all Americans. Other amendments give people the right to vote. Men, women, African Americans, and people under the age of 21 all got the right to vote at different times. In 1917, an amendment to the Constitution made alcohol illegal in the United States, but in 1933, a new amendment made alcohol legal again.
More than 11,000 amendments have been suggested, but only 27 have been approved by Congress.
You need to know about the Constitution if you want to become a U.S. Citizen.
If you want to be a United States Citizen, you need to know several things about the Constitution. Can you answer these questions:
- What is the supreme law of the land?
- What does the Constitution do?
- The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
- What is an amendment?
- What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
- What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
- How many amendments does the Constitution have?
If you don’t know all the answers, watch these videos to find out.