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WOC 581 Government

Teacher Tips and Answers


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Every country in the world has a government. The purpose of the government is to make and enforce laws and to protect the rights of its citizens. Every major country in the world also has a constitution, a basic set of laws by which the people are governed.

The U.S. Constitution establishes the form of the United States government and explains the rights and responsibilities of its citizens. This section takes a closer look at those rights and responsibilities, and how the government is organized.

Branches of Government

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The U.S. Constitution

The Constitution is made up of three main parts: a preamble, 7 articles, and 27 amendments. The preamble states the purpose of the Constitution, the articles explain how the government works, and the 10 original amendments list the basic rights guaranteed to all American citizens. Together, these parts contain the laws and guidelines necessary to set up and run a successful national government.

Besides giving power to the national government, the U.S. Constitution gives some power to the states and some to the people. Remember this when you study the Constitution.

The Preamble

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, 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, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Articles of the Constitution

The articles of the Constitution explain how each branch of government works and what each can and cannot do. The articles also explain how the federal and state governments must work together, and how the Constitution can be amended or changed.

Article 1 explains the legislative branch, how laws are made, and how Congress works.

Article 2 explains the executive branch, the offices of the president and vice president, and the powers of the executive branch.

Article 3 explains the judicial branch, the Supreme Court and other courts, and warns people about trying to overthrow the government.

Article 4 describes how the United States federal government and the individual state governments work together.

Article 5 tells how the Constitution can be amended, or changed.

Article 6 states that the United States federal government and the Constitution are the law of the land.

Article 7 outlines how the Constitution must be adopted to become official.

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The Bill of Rights

To get the necessary votes to approve the Constitution, a number of changes (amendments) had to be made. These 10 original amendments are called the Bill of Rights. They guarantee all Americans some very basic rights, including the right to worship and speak freely and the right to have a jury trial.

Government Building

Amendment 1People have the right to worship, to speak freely, to gather together, and to question the government.

Amendment 2People have the right to bear arms.

Amendment 3The government cannot have soldiers stay in people’s houses without their permission.

Amendment 4People and their property cannot be searched without the written permission of a judge.

Amendment 5People cannot be tried for a serious crime without a jury. They cannot be tried twice for the same crime or be forced to testify against themselves. Also, they cannot have property taken away while they are on trial. Any property taken for public use must receive a fair price.

Amendment 6In criminal cases, people have a right to a trial, to be told what they are accused of, to hear witnesses against them, to get witnesses in their favor, and to have a lawyer.

Amendment 7In cases involving more than $20, people have the right to a jury trial.

Amendment 8People have a right to fair bail (money given as a promise the person will return for trial) and to fair fines and punishments.

Amendment 9People have rights that are not listed in the Constitution.

Amendment 10Powers not given to the federal government are given to the states or to the people.

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