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Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence
John Trumbull
Poster
36 x 24 in
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Scene at the Signing of the Constitution

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution
Howard Chandler Christy
Poster
36 x 24 in
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Constitution and U.S. Flag

Constitution and U.S. Flag
Joseph Sohm
Photographic Print
24 x 18 in
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Declaration Of Independence

Declaration Of Independence
Poster
24 x 30 in
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US Constitution

US Constitution
Poster
24 x 36 in
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Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print

Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print
Poster
24 x 30 in
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U.S. Constitution (First Page) Art Poster Print

U.S. Constitution (First Page) Art Poster Print
Poster
13 x 19 in
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John Trumbull (Declaration of Independence) Art Poster Print

John Trumbull (Declaration of Independence) Art Poster Print
Poster
19 x 13 in
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The Bill of Rights, the First Ten Amendments to the US Constitution, 1791

The Bill of Rights, the First Ten Amendments to the US Constitution, 1791
Art Print
12 x 12 in
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USS

USS "Constitution" Being Towed Out of Boston Harbor, 1812
Giclee Print
16 x 16 in
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Constitution of the United States

Constitution of the United States
Photographic Print
18 x 24 in
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Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print

Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print
Poster
13 x 19 in
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US Flag, Constitution

US Flag, Constitution
Terry Why
Photographic Print
18 x 24 in
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Howard Chandler Christy Scene at the Signing of the Constitution Art Poster Print

Howard Chandler Christy Scene at the Signing of the Constitution Art Poster Print
Poster
19 x 13 in
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Constitution America motivational Art Print Poster

Constitution America motivational Art Print Poster
Poster
13 x 19 in
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U.S. Constitution (First Page) Art Poster Print

U.S. Constitution (First Page) Art Poster Print
Masterprint
11 x 17 in
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Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print

Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print
Masterprint
11 x 17 in
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Preamble to US Constitution Above Mount Rushmore

Preamble to US Constitution Above Mount Rushmore
Joseph Sohm
Photographic Print
18 x 24 in
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Purchase the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution Prints
Declaration Of Independence

Declaration Of Independence
Poster
24 x 30 in
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Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print

Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print
Poster
24 x 30 in
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The Bill of Rights, the First Ten Amendments to the US Constitution, 1791

The Bill of Rights, the First Ten Amendments to the US Constitution, 1791
Art Print
12 x 12 in
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Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print

Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print
Poster
13 x 19 in
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Bill of Rights - U.S.A

Bill of Rights - U.S.A
Poster
22 x 34 in
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President Lyndon Johnson Signing the 1965 Civil Rights Bill, also known as the Voting Rights Act

President Lyndon Johnson Signing the 1965 Civil Rights Bill, also known as the Voting Rights Act
Photographic Print
16 x 16 in
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Bill of Rights (First 10 Amendments) Art Poster Print

Bill of Rights (First 10 Amendments) Art Poster Print
Poster
13 x 19 in
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Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print

Declaration of Independence Authentic Reproduction Sepia Art Poster Print
Masterprint
11 x 17 in
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The Bill of Rights - Second Amendment

The Bill of Rights - Second Amendment
Art Print
11 x 17 in
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U.S. Constitution Page 3 Art Poster Print

U.S. Constitution Page 3 Art Poster Print
Poster
13 x 19 in
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Bill of Rights (First 10 Amendments) Art Poster Print

Bill of Rights (First 10 Amendments) Art Poster Print
Masterprint
11 x 17 in
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The Bill of Rights - First Amendment

The Bill of Rights - First Amendment
Art Print
11 x 17 in
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U.S. Constitution Page 4 Art Poster Print

U.S. Constitution Page 4 Art Poster Print
Poster
13 x 19 in
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The Bill of Rights - Fourth Amendment

The Bill of Rights - Fourth Amendment
Art Print
11 x 17 in
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The March on Washington: At Washington Monument Grounds, 28th August 1963

The March on Washington: At Washington Monument Grounds, 28th August 1963
Nat Herz
Photographic Print
24 x 16 in
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U.S. Constitution Page 2 Art Poster Print

U.S. Constitution Page 2 Art Poster Print
Poster
13 x 19 in
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The Bill of Rights - Sixth Amendment

The Bill of Rights - Sixth Amendment
Art Print
11 x 17 in
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Hoodie: Gun created out of 2nd Amendment

Hoodie: Gun created out of 2nd Amendment
T-Shirt
0 x 0 in
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These are the first ten amendments to the United States of America Constitution. These amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the "Bill of Rights."

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Pictures of the original U.S. Constitution click on the picture for larger image, opens in new window.

Full Text of the Constitution
National Contitution Center
Library of Congress  The Constitution

Articles of the Constitution
United States of America

The Constitution consists of a preamble, seven original articles, twenty-seven amendments, and a paragraph certifying its enactment by the constitutional convention.


 Preamble: Statement of purpose
Main article: Preamble to the United States Constitution
The Preamble states:

“ We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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 Preamble neither grants any powers nor inhibits any actions; it only explains the rationale behind the Constitution and notes by what authority it is enacted. The preamble is a basic statement of purpose that precedes the constitution. The Preamble, especially the first three words ("We the people"), is one of the most-quoted sections of the Constitution.


Article One: Legislative power
Main article: Article One of the United States Constitution
Article One establishes the legislative branch of government, the United States Congress, which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Article establishes the manner of election and qualifications of members of each House. In addition, it provides for free debate in Congress and limits self-serving behavior of congressmen, outlines legislative procedure and indicates the powers of the legislative branch. There is a debate as to whether the powers listed in Article 1 Section 8 are a list of enumerated powers. These powers may also be interpreted as a list of powers, formerly either executive or judicial in nature, that have been explicitly granted to the U.S. Congress. This interpretation may be further supported by a broad definition of both the commerce clause and the necessary-and-proper clause of the Constitution. The argument for enumerated powers can be traced back to the 1819 McCulloch v. Maryland United States Supreme Court ruling. Finally, it establishes limits on federal and state legislative power.


Article Two: Executive power
Main article: Article Two of the United States Constitution
Article Two describes the presidency (the executive branch): procedures for the selection of the president, qualifications for office, the oath to be affirmed and the powers and duties of the office. It also provides for the office of Vice President of the United States, and specifies that the Vice President succeeds to the presidency if the President is incapacitated, dies, or resigns, although whether this succession was on an acting or permanent basis was left unclear. In practice, this has always been treated as succession, and the 25th Amendment provides explicitly for succession. Article Two also provides for the impeachment and removal from office of civil officers (the President, Vice President, judges, and others).


Article Three: Judicial power
Main article: Article Three of the United States Constitution
Article Three describes the court system (the judicial branch), including the Supreme Court. The article requires that there be one court called the Supreme Court; Congress, at its discretion, can create lower courts, whose judgments and orders are reviewable by the Supreme Court. Article Three also requires trial by jury in all criminal cases, defines the crime of treason, and charges Congress with providing for a punishment for it. It also sets the kinds of cases that may be heard by the federal judiciary, which cases the Supreme Court may hear first (called original jurisdiction), and that all other cases heard by the Supreme Court are by appeal.


Article Four: States' powers and limits
Main article: Article Four of the United States Constitution
Article Four describes the relationship between the states and the Federal government and amongst the states. For instance, it requires states to give "full faith and credit" to the public acts, records and court proceedings of the other states. Congress is permitted to regulate the manner in which proof of such acts, records or proceedings may be admitted. The "privileges and immunities" clause prohibits state governments from discriminating against citizens of other states in favor of resident citizens (e.g., having tougher penalties for residents of Ohio convicted of crimes within Michigan). It also establishes extradition between the states, as well as laying down a legal basis for freedom of movement and travel amongst the states. Today, this provision is sometimes taken for granted, especially by citizens who live near state borders; but in the days of the Articles of Confederation, crossing state lines was often a much more arduous (and costly) process. Article Four also provides for the creation and admission of new states. The Territorial Clause gives Congress the power to make rules for disposing of Federal property and governing non-state territories of the United States. Finally, the fourth section of Article Four requires the United States to guarantee to each state a republican form of government, and to protect the states from invasion and violence.


Article Five: Process of Amendments
Main article: Article Five of the United States Constitution
Article Five describes the process necessary to amend the Constitution. It establishes two methods of proposing amendments: by Congress or by a national convention requested by the states. Under the first method, Congress can propose an amendment by a two-thirds vote (of a quorum, not necessarily of the entire body) of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. Under the second method, two-thirds (2/3) of the state legislatures may convene and "apply" to Congress to hold a national convention, whereupon Congress must call such a convention for the purpose of considering amendments. As of 2007, only the first method (proposal by Congress) has been used.

Once proposed—whether submitted by Congress or by a national convention—amendments must then be ratified by three-fourths (3/4) of the states to take effect. Article Five gives Congress the option of requiring ratification by state legislatures or by special conventions assembled in the states. The convention method of ratification has been used only once (to approve the 21st Amendment). Article Five currently places only one limitation on the amending power—that no amendment can deprive a state of its equal representation in the Senate without that state's consent.


Article Six: Federal power
Main article: Article Six of the United States Constitution
Article Six establishes the Constitution, and the laws and treaties of the United States made in accordance with it, to be the supreme law of the land, and that "the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the laws or constitutions of any state notwithstanding." It also validates national debt created under the Articles of Confederation and requires that all legislators, federal officers, and judges take oaths or affirmations to "support" the Constitution. This means that the states' constitutions and laws should not conflict with the laws of the federal constitution—and that in case of a conflict, state judges are legally bound to honor the federal laws and constitution over those of any state.

Article Six also states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States".


Article Seven: Ratification
Main article: Article Seven of the United States Constitution
Article Seven sets forth the requirements for ratification of the Constitution. The Constitution would not take effect until at least nine states had ratified the Constitution in state conventions specially convened for that purpose. (See above Drafting and ratification requirements.)


Provisions for amendment
The authors of the Constitution were clearly aware that changes would be necessary from time to time if the Constitution was to endure and cope with the effects of the anticipated growth of the nation. However, they were also conscious that such change should not be easy, lest it permit ill-conceived and hastily passed amendments. Balancing this, they also wanted to ensure that an overly rigid requirement of unanimity would not block action desired by the vast majority of the population. Their solution was to devise a dual process by which the Constitution could be altered.

Unlike most constitutions, amendments to the U.S. constitution are appended to the existing body of the text, rather than being revisions of or insertions into the main articles. There is no provision for expunging from the text obsolete or rescinded provisions.

Some argue that demographic changes in the U.S.—specifically the great disparity in population between states—have made the Constitution too difficult to amend, with states representing as little as 4% of the population theoretically able to block an amendment desired by over 90% of Americans; others feel that it is unlikely that such an extreme result would occur. However, any proposals to change this would necessarily involve amending the Constitution itself.

Aside from the direct process of amending the Constitution, the practical effect of its provisions may be altered by judicial decision and review. The United States is a common law country, rooted in English common law, with courts following the precedents established in prior cases. However, when a Supreme Court decision clarifies the application of a part of the Constitution to existing law, the effect is to establish the meaning of that part for all practical purposes. Not long after adoption of the Constitution, in the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison the Supreme Court established the doctrine of judicial review, which is the power of the Court to examine legislation and other acts of Congress and to decide their constitutionality. The doctrine also embraces the power of the Court to explain the meaning of various sections of the Constitution as they apply to particular cases brought before the Court. Since such cases will reflect changing legal, political, economic, and social conditions, this provides a mechanism, in practice, for adjusting the Constitution without needing to amend its text. Over the years, a series of Court decisions, on issues ranging from governmental regulation of radio and television to the rights of the accused in criminal cases, has affected a change in the way many Constitutional clauses are interpreted, without amendment to the actual text of the Constitution.

Congressional legislation, passed to implement provisions of the Constitution or to adapt those implementations to changing conditions, also broadens and, in subtle ways, changes the meanings given to the words of the Constitution. Up to a point, the rules and regulations of the many agencies of the federal government have a similar effect. In case of objection, the test in both cases is whether, in the opinion of the courts, such legislation and rules conform with the meanings given to the words of the Constitution.
 

American History
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