Welcome back! This week's theme is a the second on a series about the Constitution. As I said last week, the Constitution is our most fundamental founding document, and there are many questions about it on the citizenship test.
Question 36: What is an amendment?
Answer: A change/addition to the Constitution
Dictionary.com defines an amendment as:
Amending the Constitution is very difficult, which is why we have only had a few amendments in our history. You can read about the process here.
Question 37: How many amendments does the Constitution have?
The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights (see question 38, below).
Amendments 13, 14, and 15 were ratified after the Civil War and relate to the abolition of slavery, equal protection and voting rights for African American men. Amendment 19 expanded the right to vote to women, and Amendment 26 lowered the voting age to 18.
Some amendments relate to the government's power to tax (16th, 24th), and power to regulate the sale of alcohol (18th & 21st). Many amendments regulate election and government procedures (12th, 17th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, and 27th.)
You can find a list of all 27 amendments here.
Question 38: What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?
Answer: The Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights is the name given to the first 10 amendments. These amendments generally address individual rights and freedoms that were not mentioned in the articles of the Constitution. These amendments were ratified immediately after the Constitution was ratified.
The 1st Amendment protects the freedoms of speech, religion, petition, press, and assembly. The 2nd Amendment protects the right to bear arms, which is a much debated topic these days as many in the government advocate for laws restricting access to firearms. The 3rd amendment prohibits the government from quartering soldiers in private homes.
Amendments 4 through 8 relate to arrests and the judicial process. The 4th Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure. The 5th Amendment gives many important protection, such as protection against double jeopardy (being charged with the same crime twice), self-incrimination, and give due process rights. The 6th Amendment provides for a number of trial rights, such as the right to a speedy trial, the right to an impartial jury, and, perhaps most importantly, the right to have a lawyer present in criminal proceedings. The 7th Amendment provides for the right to a jury in civil trials, and the 8th Amendment prohibits the use of cruel or unusual punishments.
The 9th and 10th Amendments are catch-all provisions. The 9th Amendment protects citizens by widening the scope of individual rights. This amendment states that the Bill of Rights is not an exhaustive list of individual rights, and that there are rights that exist outside of the written Constitution. The 10th Amendment states that if a government power is not specifically described in the Constitution as being given to the federal government, then it goes to the state government by default.
Question 39: What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
Answer: The Constitution was written/The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution
The Constitutional Convention occurred in Philadelphia in 1787, four years after the end of the Revolutionary War. The Constitution replaced the failed Articles of Confederation and has been our governing document ever since.
Question 40: The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the US Constitution. Name one of the writers.
Answers: (a) John Jay; (b) James Madison; (c) Alexander Hamilton; (d) Publius
The Federalist Papers were a series of 85 essays that encouraged the people to ratify the Constitution. The essays were published in several prominent newspapers and were written by John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. The three writers used the name "Publius" as a pseudonym because they wanted to keep their identities secret.
These essays were important not only because of their influence on the American people at the time, but also because they have informed our understanding of the Founding Fathers' intent over the last two and a half centuries.
This week's post has been dense, but these concepts are important because so many potential questions on the citizenship test are related to the Constitution. Next week, we will move on to some questions regarding the rights and responsibilities of citizens. In the meantime, have a happy Thanksgiving on Thursday! And, don't forget to enter your email address below to subscribe to our blog!