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Assessment of the Constitution Preface

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The Preamble to the Constitution contains powerful language that is the bedrock of American political tradition. The opening line: We the People of the United States proclaims that the states remain in a unity and that they are not independent of one another. With these words the loose confederation of independent states ceased to exist after ratification of the Constitution. The Preamble also answers the question of the source of power of the government: the power comes from the people, not from the states. The phrase [I]n Order to form a more perfect Union implies that at the time of forming the country, the Articles of Confederation were weak in governing a growing nation. Next come the general goals for the American nation (originally set up by the Framers): establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. The following words: do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America pose the formal creation of the new government after the ratification.

Article I vests all legislative powers in the Congress and establishes a bicameral legislature, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. It also sets out the qualifications for holding office in each house, the terms of office, methods of selection of representatives and senators, and the system of apportionment among the states to determine membership in the House of Representatives. The Article I, section 8 contains enumerated powers and elastic clause.

Article II vests the executive power- the authority to execute the laws of the nation in a president of the United States. Section 1 sets the presidents term of office at four years, explains the electoral college, states qualifications for office and describes a mechanism to replace the president in case of death, disability, or removal. Section 3 sets out the powers and duties of the president (commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the authority to make treaties with the consent of the Senate, and the authority to appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, the Judges of the Supreme Court, and all the other Officers of the United States. The Article II also contains instructions for the president to report directly to Congress periodically, in what has to come to be known as the State of the Union Address, and to take Care that the laws be faithfully executed. Section 4 provides the mechanism for removal of the president, vice-president, and other officers of the US for Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article III establishes a Supreme Court and defines its jurisdiction. Congress is permitted, but not required, to establish lower national courts. Thus, state courts and the national court system exist side by side with distinct areas of authority. Federal courts are given authority to decide cases arising under federal law. The Supreme Court is also given the power to settle disputes between states, or between a state and the national government. Judges are given appointments for life, presuming good behavior. Their salaries cannot be lowered while they hold office.

Article IV begins with what is called the full faith and credit clause, which mandates that states honor the laws and judicial proceedings of the other states. It also includes the mechanisms for admitting new states to the Union.

Article V specifies the way of adding amendments to the Constitution.

Article VI contains the supremacy clause and specifies that no religious test should be shall be required for holding any office.

Article VII concerns the procedures for ratification of the Constitution: Nine of the thirteen states have to agree to, or ratify, its new provisions before it becomes the supreme law of the land.

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