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 Constitution of the United States is considered the supreme law of the United State of America. Contrary to popular belief, the constitutional system America has been living under since 1788, the year of the first Presidential election, is not the original American system of government. The first government set up by the continental congress was called the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Government. This system of governance only lasted 10 years. It was comprised of a unicameral body of delegates, with each state having a single vote who, acting collectively could make decisions on certain issues that affected all the states.¹ There was no President or judiciary and any decision required 9 out of 13 states in agreement.
In 1787 delegates from each state met in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation.¹ This resulted in writing a new charter of government: the Constitution
This Constitution consisted of seven Articles.The first three illustrated the doctrine of separation of powers, wherein the American government was divided into three branches; the executive, legislative and judiciary. The document instilled a system of checks and balances wherein each branch checks the balance of others.The fourth and sixth articles outlined the concept of federalism; wherein government authority rests in both national and state governments. The fifth and seventh articles had the procedures for amending and ratifying the constitution, respectively.¹
There were two focuses of the original Philadelphia conference: (1) separation of powers and (2) federalism. Both of these concepts are ingrained in the Constitution and continue to be integral parts of American political identity.
The biggest debate in the creation of the document was how to protect the United States against tyranny from both government and citizens. Another debate between the founding fathers whose result we still see today was the Great Compromise. The balance between more populated and less populated states was achieved by having the House of Representatives represent proportionally to state population and the Senate would have two representatives from each state.
The Constitution has since been amended 27 times. The first 10 amendments were ratified in 1791 and are known as the Bill of Rights.¹
1. The Constitution, the Articles, and Federalism: Crash Course US History #8. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO7FQsCcbD8&list=PL8dPuuaLjXtMwmepBjTSG593eG7ObzO7s&index=8