The United States Constitution was written to protect citizens and also the states. It ensures rights, prevents the federal government from infringing on these rights, and creates laws.
The fundamental rights and civil liberties for individuals are set out in the constitution.
The Law of the Land
Often referred to as “The Law of the Land,” it prevents the government from infringing on the basic rights and civil liberties granted to them by federal law. However, this is not the only purpose and function of a constitution.
Principles of the Constitution
To understand the purpose and role of the American Constitution, it is essential to look at the principles and factors that guided the creation of the constitution in the first place.
Often referred to in popular literature or scholarly textbooks as the “guiding principles,” these include rights of individuals, federalism, law and order, popular sovereignty, judiciary independence, the rule of law, and check and balances, which is included with the separating of power of the branches of the federal government.
These principles were designed to protect the way of life and interests of the citizens of the United States.
Articles of the Constitution
There are seven articles of the U.S. Constitution. Articles can best be defined as a clause or stipulation contained within a document.
The first three articles consist of the Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, and Judicial Branch.
Those are followed by the process of creating States and Constitutional Amendments.
Debts, Supremacy, and Oaths are contained within the 6th Article and lastly, Ratification in the 7th Article.
These articles are the basis for the constitution.
Initially drafted in 1787, there have been constitutional amendments 27 times.
Organization of Government
The constitution defines a framework for the federal government with rules and regulations that must be followed. As previously mentioned, this includes the legislative branch, executive branch, and judiciary branch. In addition, it outlines the powers of these branches individually and combined, limiting unnecessary power.
Furthermore, it identifies and outlines that these branches are not to infringe upon individual and state rights. This is achieved by having legally binding processes that must be adhered to by the branches.
Duties and Limitations of the Constitution
In defining the federal government’s organization, the constitution also defines duties and limitations. Simply put, it sets forth laws that the federal government must abide by.
It is a guide of what can be done by a government branch that holds offices within those branches.
Even the president himself must follow these laws and sets of rules.
This lends checks and balances so that one branch may not override aspects of the constitution or abuse power.
Civil liberties afforded by the constitution include freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of petition, and freedom of media access.
This prevents the government from infringing on and punishing unlawfully for any of these freedoms.
Another important reason for the separation of power is that this allows the people to question government practices and address them without punishment or retaliation from any branch of the government.
Essentially, this is an important part of remaining a democratic nation. Democracy is heavily integrated throughout the document and serves as one of the primary purposes of a constitution.
Rights of Individuals
The rights of individuals provided by the United States Constitution include the right to a public trial for a criminal offense, the right to possess firearms, question excessive bail or unusual punishment, and the right to question arrests and property seizures without a warrant.
These concepts cover things such as wrongful imprisonment. The purpose of individual rights is to prevent the government from abuses of power and extend basic freedoms available to all country citizens.
Bill of Rights
The bill of rights constitutes the first ten amendments and includes both the above-mentioned civil liberties and the rights of individuals.
However, there are other provisions included within these first ten amendments. This includes rights about the housing of soldiers, civil courts, and undelegated powers of the government. Once again, this prevents the government from seeking punitive damages without due process, among many other things.
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
Amendments have allowed for the adaptation of laws as American society has evolved. When the constitution was created, it was created with this in mind. Hence, the amendment process is one of the articles included within the constitution. That way, it could be a living, functioning document that fit the needs of Americans as times changed over the years.
There are currently 27 amendments in the constitution.
Citizenship and the Constitution
Although the constitution is thorough regarding the rights of citizens and the law for government, the constitution also addresses citizenship. Simply put, it addresses who is classified as a citizen of the United States and defines the pathways for those who may not be citizens but wish to become one.
It also lays out the duties and responsibilities expected of the citizens. These duties and responsibilities will apply whether one is naturalized or a citizen by birthright.
References to citizenship are found throughout the articles and amendments. The constitution was written with citizens and democracy in mind.
Why is the constitution important?
It should go without saying that the primary function and purpose of the constitution is to serve and protect the people of the United States. However, it encompasses so much more than this. It protects citizens from unlawful persecution, aids in preventing government tyranny by ensuring checks and balances within the federal government, and clearly defines the laws set forth for the government.
The constitution covers individual rights and state rights and minimizes the unnecessary involvement of federal branches of government. In addition, the U.S. Constitution lays out the expectations for citizens and the requirements for gaining citizenship.
Watch the following video to find out why the constitution was written: