The Articles of the Constitution
A young girl holds up a newspaper headline announcing Hawaii as a new state. The articles of the Constitution set up the rules for how to become a state. (Photo: Hawaii State Archives/AP Wide World)
The main body of the Constitution is made up of seven articles. The Articles explain how the government works. They also carefully describe the rules for electing government officials, like Senators and the President.
The Constitution is based on the separation of powers. It divides power between the three separate branches of the government. They are the legislative, judicial, and executive branches.
The role of the legislative branch is discussed in Article I. The legislative branch includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. Together they are called Congress. Members of the House of Representatives are often referred to as members of Congress, but Senators are always called Senators.
Rules for how the President and the Vice President are elected are defined in Article II. It also defines the responsibilities and powers of the President and the executive branch.
The judicial branch includes the Supreme Court and lower courts. Article III states that Supreme Court Judges can hold office for life, unless they are removed, impeached, or convicted of a crime. It also says that anyone accused of committing a federal crime has the right to a trial by jury.
Article IV discusses the relationship between states and the federal government. It also outlines the rules for admitting new states to the Union.
The Founding Fathers realized that over time, the government might need to make changes, called amendments, to the Constitution. Two thirds of both houses of Congress must agree to propose an amendment. It takes a positive vote by three fourths of the states to make an amendment law.
Article VI states that the Constitution is the highest law of the land. Federal and state officers and judges must uphold the Constitution.
The names of the men who signed and ratified, or approved the Constitution, are in Article VII. It confirms the establishment of the Constitution.
For more information about Constitution Day, visit the National Constitution Center's Web site.
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