Nearly every boy in the three classes I taught raised his hand when I asked if his school teacher requires that he read so many pages per month on his own. "Why then," I ask, "don't you read the 39 pages of this little booklet containing the Constitution and Declaration of Independence as part of that assignment?" Every boy in each class admitted to having read at least one book in his life that was longer than 39 pages. The 39 pages of the booklet containing these two founding documents could well be 39 of the most important pages that they--or you--will ever read.
The Constitution is divided up into Articles and Sections. These divisions can be roughly compared to the chapters and verses in the Bible or other scriptures. The Articles are identified by Roman numerals (i.e. I, II, III, IV), while the Sections are identified by the Arabic numerals that we use regularly today (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4).
The Preamble is a short paragraph (actually one long sentence) at the beginning of the Constitution, and it serves as the introduction and reasoning for why the Constitution is needed.
The first three articles of the Constitution deal with (I) the Legislature, or the Congress, (II) the Executive, or the President, and (III) the Judiciary, or the Supreme Court and other courts. Article I clearly states that only the Legislature can make law. When the President attempts to make law with an Executive Order, or when a Supreme Court decision attempts to make new law, these other two branches are clearly stepping beyond their Constitutional authority.
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution lists approximately 18 things that the Legislative Branch (Congress) can make laws about. Use the mnemonic I + 8 = 18 to remember these approximately 18 areas of authority. In essay number 45 of the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote that
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.Amendments 9 and 10 in the Constitution's Bill of Rights (which comprises the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution) agree with James Madison's statement that the Federal Government should remain small because (a) since rights come from God as stated in the Declaration of Independence, government cannot take them away, and (b) any of the short list of authorities not granted to the federal government is left to the states or the people to decide.
To Amend something is to change it or to fix it. The Constitution was inspired by God, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is perfect. The very first 10 Amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were immediately required by some of the states before they would agree to ratify the Constitution. (The Bill of Rights was presented in Congress by James Madison at about the time the Constitution took effect and was separately ratified by the States about two years later.)
Whenever the government or the people feel that government should have a power that is not granted in the Constitution, the only way to bestow that power is by Amendment, as described in Article V. The Amendment process is purposefully difficult. As a result, in the last few decades, Congresses, Presidents, and the people have gotten lazy, thinking that Congress or even the president can make laws or policy--without Amendments--that clearly disagree with what the Constitution says.
The velocity of unconstitutional lawmaking seems to have taken off since 1913, when, ironically, two Amendments were ratified by the States:
- Amendment XVI made it Constitutional for the federal government to levy an income tax
- Amendment XVII removed the authority of appointing Senators from the State legislatures and instead required that they be elected in the same manner as members of the House of Representatives--by the peoople