• A change or addition to the Constitution.
• The Framers knew even the most intelligent people could not
foresee how our country would change in the future so they felt
it necessary to leave it open for amendment. It is known as a
LIVING DOCUMENT because it never ends.
1. May be proposed by a 2/3 vote in each house of Congress
and be ratified by ¾ of the state legislatures. 26 of the 27
amendments were adopted in this way.
2. May be proposed by a 2/3 vote in Congress and then
ratified by conventions in ¾ of the states. Only the 21st
amendment was adopted in this way.
3. May be proposed by a national convention, called by
Congress at the request of 2/3 of the state legislatures. It
must then be ratified by ¾ of the state legislatures.
4. May be proposed by a national convention and ratified by
conventions in ¾ of the states.
• When the Constitution was signed in 1787, no one knew how
well it would work. The Articles of Confederation had been
signed with high hopes, but ended up being very weak, so people
were skeptical of the Constitution as well.
• The main key to the success of the Constitution is it’s flexibility to change
with the times. The writers included two ways to amend the Constitution.
Interpretation and Amendment.
A. Amendment- There are two steps in the amendment process.
1. Proposal- an amendment can be proposed in two ways:
a. By a vote of 2/3 of the members of both houses of Congress.
b. By a national convention called by state legislatures.
2. Ratification- once proposed an amendment must get ¾ of the states
vote to ratify it. The writers of the Constitution made it difficult to
amend on purpose, so this way the Constitution could only be changed
with overwhelming support of the people. The ability to change is the
main reason the Constitution has been so successful.
A. Interpretation- The constitution was written in general terms to
leave it open for interpretation.
1. Necessary and Proper Clause- gives Congress the power “to make all
laws which shall be necessary and proper” to carry out it’s duties. This
allows Congress to exercise powers not specifically listed in the
constitution. These powers are known as implied powers. Much of
what the federal government does now is based on these powers.
2. Supreme Court- the final responsibility for interpretation of the
Constitution lies with the Supreme Court. This is the power of Judicial
- So the Constitution now is much different than it was 200
years ago and will continue to change but the basic structure
will remain the same.
• The first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights
because they deal with the rights of the people.
• They were written in 1791.
• Gives us five personal freedoms.
• Press- freedom of expression in writing.
• Religion- freedom to practice any religion.
• Assembly- freedom to peacefully assemble.
• Petition- freedom to write to government.
• Speech- freedom of speech and expression.
• Protection against self – incrimination and double jeopardy.
• Heard it in movies?
• Right to a speedy trial, an attorney, and to confront
• Reformed the Electoral College as a method of electing the
• What is the electoral college?
• How does it work?
• Prohibits slavery.
• Made ex – slaves citizens.
• Voting rights cannot be denied because of race.
• Why are these three amendments seen as “steps” toward
• National prohibition of liquor.
• What does prohibition mean?
• Voting rights for women.
• What year was this added?
• Repealed Prohibition of liquor.
• Why go back and change it?
• Why not just erase the 18th amendment?
• Two elected term limit for the President.
• Who served the longest?
• It was tradition, but not law until this.
• Set voting age at 18. Called the Vietnam War amendment.
• Why change it from 21 to 18?