G CS 07

Basic Principles of the U.S. Constitution

Principles related to representative democracy are reflected in the articles and amendments of the U.S. Constitution and provide structure for the government of the United States.

Content Statement

7. Constitutional government in the United States has changed over time as a result of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court decisions, legislation and informal practices.

Content Elaborations

The operations of government in the United States take place within a framework provided by the U.S. Constitution. However, the U.S. Constitution has been amended, interpreted, supplemented and implemented in a variety of ways.

The alternative processes for formally amending the U.S. Constitution are outlined in Article V of the document. Constitutional amendments have added to, modified, replaced and/or made inoperable provisions of the original document and previous amendments.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in deciding cases brought before it, has frequently interpreted provisions of the U.S. Constitution to clarify and extend their meaning. With its power of judicial review, the Supreme Court has also declared actions of the political branches and of the states to be unconstitutional.

The U.S. Congress, in enacting legislation, has provided details which build upon the framework of the Constitution. For example, civil rights acts and voting rights acts have provided specific directions in furtherance of constitutional principles.

Informal practices also have changed how constitutional government has been implemented in the United States. These practices are related to provisions in the Constitution, but venture into areas not specifically addressed in the Constitution. For example, legislative oversight of the executive branch grew in part out of Congress’ need for information to help draft new legislation.

Expectations for Learning

Select an example of how constitutional government in the United States has changed the meaning and application of any one of the basic principles which help define the government of the United States and summarize the nature of the change.