We call the American flag the “Stars and Stripes.” Congress chose the “Stars and Stripes” design for our flag on June 14, 1777. Americans celebrate June 14th as Flag Day. Much later, Congress explained the colors: red stands for hardiness and valor, white for purity and innocence, and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
The white stars on the flag represent the United States as being like “a new constellation” in the sky. The nation was seen as a new constellation because the republican system of government was new and different in the 1770s.Very few other countries were republics at that time. In the republican system of government, leaders work to help all of the country’s people. They do not act to help only a few special citizens. Since the people themselves choose these leaders, the people hold the power of government.
Each star represents a state. This is why the number of stars has changed over the years from 13 to 50.The number of stars reached 50 in 1959. In that year, Hawaii joined the United States as the 50th state.
The stars represent the Founding Fathers’ view of the American experiment in democracy. To them, the goal of a republic based on individual freedom was a noble, lofty idea. Stars are considered a symbol of the heavens and the high, ambitious vision that our Founders were trying to reach.
For 18 years after becoming an independent country, the United States had only 13 states. In 1794, Kentucky and Vermont joined the United States, making the number of states 15. At that time, Congress increased the number of stars and stripes on the flag from 13 to 15.The number of stripes was not changed again to 13 for many years.
In 1818, Congress decided that the number of stripes on the flag should always be 13.This would honor the original states, no matter how many new states would join the United States later. These original 13 states had been colonies of Great Britain before America’s independence.
The pre-independence American flags also had stripes. The “Boston Liberty” flag, for example, was flown in the early part of the American Revolution. This flag was flown by a famous group of patriots called the Sons of Liberty. This group and others felt that British laws treated the American colonists unfairly. They were also angry at being taxed by the British while having no say, or representation, in the government.
There are 50 states in the Union. The first 13 states, which were the original 13 colonies, were Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Georgia, Delaware, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The last state to join the Union was Hawaii.
Congress voted for the United States to become independent from Great Britain on July 2, 1776. However, we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th.This is because it took two days for Congress to vote to accept an official Declaration of Independence. This Declaration was written by Thomas Jefferson and edited by Congress. It explained why the American colonies were separating from their British ruler. The 4th of July is now considered to be the birthday of America. We celebrate with parades, fireworks, the playing of patriotic songs, and live readings of the Declaration of Independence.
The decision to break from the British was not an easy choice for many colonists. However, Great Britain’s “repeated injuries” against the Americans, as noted in the Declaration of Independence, convinced many to join the rebellion. After years of difficult fighting, the colonists went on to win their freedom.
The American colonists’ anger had been building for years before the Revolutionary War began.The Americans fought this war because they wanted freedom from British rule. The fighting of the war ended in 1781, after the Battle of Yorktown.The Americans, with French help, won this battle. It was not until 1783 that the British fully accepted United States independence.
Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. He won the presidential election of 2008 and became the first African American president of the United States. As president, he is the head of the executive branch. As commander in chief, he is also in charge of the military. Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He graduated from Columbia University in New York. Obama also studied law and graduated from Harvard University in Massachusetts. He served as a U.S. senator for the state of Illinois before being elected president. President Obama’s wife, called “the First Lady,” is Michelle Obama.
Joseph (Joe) R. Biden, Jr. is the 47th vice president of the United States. Biden was born November 20, 1942 in Pennsylvania. Later, his family moved to Delaware. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965. In 1968, he graduated from law school at Syracuse University in New York. From 1972-2009, Biden served as a U.S. senator for the state of Delaware. As vice president, Biden is president of the U.S. Senate and a top advisor to the president. Vice President Biden is married to Jill Biden.
The Electoral College is not a place or a school. It is a process that was designed by the writers of the Constitution to select presidents. It came from a compromise between the President being elected directly by the people and the President being chosen by Congress. Combining these ideas, the American people vote for a “college” of electors, who then meet to choose the President. Today, the people of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia vote for the electors in November. The electors then officially vote for the President in December.
The Vice President is first in line to take over as President. This has happened eight times in U.S. history. William Henry Harrison died in office in 1841. Zachary Taylor died in office in 1850. Abraham Lincoln was killed in office in 1865. James Garfield was killed in office in 1881.William McKinley was killed in office in 1901.Warren Harding died in office in 1923. Franklin Roosevelt died in office in 1945. John F. Kennedy was killed in office in 1963.
The U.S. Constitution has lasted longer than any other country’s constitution. It is the basic legal framework establishing the U.S. government. Every person and every agency and department of government must follow the Constitution. This is why it is called the “supreme law of the land.” Under this system, the powers of the national government are limited to those written in the Constitution. The guiding principle behind this system is often called the rule of law.
It is not easy for the Constitution to be changed, or amended. First, two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House of Representatives must vote to approve an Amendment. Then, three-fourths of the states must approve the Amendment. This process is called ratification. Six times an Amendment has passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, but was not approved by enough states to be ratified.
The first Amendments to the Constitution were added in 1791.These original ten Amendments are called the Bill of Rights. Since the Bill of Rights passed, 17 more Amendments have been added. The 27thAmendment is the most recent addition. It was added in 1992 and addresses how Senators and Representatives are paid. Interestingly, Congress first discussed this Amendment back in 1789.
The Constitution divides the government’s power among three branches. These branches operate under a system of checks and balances. This means that each branch can block, or threaten to block, the action of another branch. This way, no one branch can grow too powerful and harm the liberties of citizens. For example, the Senate can block a treaty signed by the President, or the U.S. Supreme Court can reject a law passed by Congress. In the first example, the legislative branch is “checking” the executive, and in the second, the judicial branch is “checking” the legislative.
The main job of Congress is to make federal laws. Congress is divided into two parts—the Senate and the House of Representatives. By dividing Congress into two parts, the Constitution put the checks and balances idea to work within the legislative branch. Each part of Congress makes sure that the other does not become too powerful. These two “check” each other because both must agree for a law to be made. A Congress divided into two parts is known as a bicameral legislature.
Specific powers are assigned to each of these chambers. Only the Senate has the power to reject a treaty signed by the President or a person chosen to serve on the Supreme Court. Only the House of Representatives has the power to begin considering a bill that makes Americans pay taxes. Also, only the House has the power to make a President go to trial for a crime against the United States. This is called impeachment.
A federal law is a rule that all people living in the United States must follow. Every law begins as a proposal made by a member of Congress. Tax proposals must begin in the House. Other types of proposals can be made by any Senator or Representative. When the Senate or House begins to debate the proposal, it is called a bill. If the President signs the bill, it becomes a federal law.
The nation is divided into 435 Congressional districts. The people of each district are represented by a member of the House of Representatives. The people of each state also vote for two U.S. Senators. The term of office for members of the House of Representatives is two years. The term for Senators is six years. Before 1913, state legislatures elected the U.S. Senators to represent that state. Since then, the people of a state have directly elected their two Senators.
One reason the Senate was created was to give states with few people equal power to states with many people. With two Senators representing each state, states with small populations have the same Senate representation as states with large populations. In contrast, in the House, states with more people have more Representatives and therefore more power.
The writers of the Constitution wanted Senators to be independent from public opinion. A longer, six-year term would give them this protection. They also wanted the Senate to balance the two-year term of the members of the House, who would more closely follow public opinion. The Constitution puts no limit on the number of terms a Senator may serve.
For a complete list of United States Senators and the states they represent, go to http://www.senate.gov.
The House has had 435 members since 1912. Since that year, however, the distribution among the states of those 435 members has changed. This is because the number of Representatives from each state is re-calculated every ten years. New information from the Census is used in this recalculation. If one state gains many residents while another state loses many, the first state could get one or more new Representatives, while the other state could lose one or more. But the overall number of U.S. Representatives does not change.
People living in a Representative’s district are called constituents. Representatives tend to reflect the views of his or her constituents. If Representatives do not do this, they may be voted out of office. The writers of the Constitution believed that short two-year terms and frequent elections keep Representatives closer to their constituents and public opinion. The Constitution puts no limit on the number of terms a Representative may serve.
The President is both the head of state and the head of government. Presidential powers include the ability to sign treaties with other countries and select ambassadors to represent the United States abroad. As head of the executive branch, the President names the top leaders of the federal departments. However, the Senate has the power to reject the President’s choices. This limit on the power of the President is another example of checks and balances.
Early American leaders felt that the head of the British government, the king, had too much power. Because of The President’s home, the White House this, they limited the powers of the head of the new U.S. government. They decided that the President would have to be elected by the people every four years.
Many different federal courts make up the judiciary branch. The Constitution created the Supreme Court, but gave Congress the right to create lower federal courts. District and appellate courts are two examples of lower courts. Decisions made by these courts can be reviewed and overturned by the higher-ranking Supreme Court. The lower courts are spread throughout the country, in various districts and circuits.
The U.S. Supreme Court makes sure that laws are consistent with the Constitution. If they are not, the Court can declare them unconstitutional and therefore not valid. In this case, the laws are rejected. The Court has the last word on all cases that have to do with federal laws and treaties. It also rules on other cases, such as those between states.
The government set up by the Constitution is based on the consent, or agreement, of the governed. The introduction to the Constitution reflects this idea.This introduction is called the Preamble. It states that “We the People” establish the Constitution. The actual system of the U.S. government is a representative democracy. The Constitution also reflects the idea of consent of the governed. The “governed”—all U.S. citizens—choose representatives to make the nation’s laws and a president to lead the executive branch.
To learn the capital of your state, go to http:// www.firstgov.gov and select the state government link.
To learn the name of the Governor of your state, go to http://www. firstgov.gov and select the state government link.
John G. Roberts, Jr. is currently the 17th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. President George W. Bush nominated him for this position following the death of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist in September 2005. At age 50, Judge Roberts became the youngest Chief Justice since 1801, when John Marshall was confirmed at the age of 45. Previously, Judge Roberts served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Patrick Henry was a fiery leader of the American Revolution. Before U.S. independence, he spoke out for colonial rights within the Virginia legislature. Henry represented Virginia in both the First and Second Continental Congresses. He helped push the colonies toward independence. In 1775, when the Revolutionary
The United States officially went to war on December 8, 1941. President Franklin Roosevelt, as Commander-in-Chief of the military, obtained an official declaration of war from Congress. This was one day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, an American naval base in Hawaii. Japan’s partners in the Axis, Italy and Germany, then declared war on the United States, Great Britain, and their Allies. The Allies fought against the German Nazis, the Italian Fascists, and Japan’s military empire. This was very difficult for the United States, which had to fight wars in both the Pacific region and Europe.
In 1867, the U.S. government bought the land of Alaska from Russia, paying $7,200,000. Secretary of State William Seward made the decision to buy Alaska. Ninety-two years later, in 1959,Alaska finally became a state.The people of Alaska now honor Seward for his commitment to their state. They celebrate Seward’s Day every March.
The first U.S. President, George Washington, only ran for President twice. Washington felt that one person should not serve as President for a very long time. Following this tradition, no future President served for more than two terms until Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt was elected to four terms. Not long after he died, the Constitution was amended so that a President could only serve two terms.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister and civil rights hero. During his short life he did much to make America a more fair, tolerant, and equal nation. He was the main leader of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Because of this movement, civil rights laws that protected voting rights and ended segregation were passed. King believed in the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. He advanced the idea that every citizen deserves America’s promise of equality and justice.
The writers of the Constitution wanted the two parts of Congress to have different characters. By giving each state only two Senators, the writers made sure that the Senate would be small.This would keep the Senate more orderly than the larger House of Representatives. As James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper #63, the Senate should be a “temperate and respectable body of citizens” that operates in a “cool and deliberate” way.
The process of nominating a Supreme Court Justice is an example of checks and balances. The executive branch has the power to choose the members of the judicial branch of the federal government. The legislative branch can check this power, since the Senate must confirm the President’s nominee. However, once on the Court, the Justices have lifelong terms. Therefore, the judicial branch’s power and independence is protected.
The number of Justices is not established in the Constitution. In the past, it has been as high as 10 and as low as six. Now, there are eight Associate Justices and one Chief Justice. The current Associate Justices are Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is John Roberts.
In the early 1600s, the Pilgrims left England. They first went to Holland, where they lived for a few years, then America. Many English settlers sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the American colonies during the 17th century. Many came for political freedom or, like the Pilgrims, the right to practice their religion. Others came because of economic opportunity. These freedoms and opportunities often did not exist in the home countries of these settlers. For them, the American colonies meant a new chance in life and the freedom to live as they wanted.
Like a Governor or the President, a mayor usually shares power with a legislative body. In city government, this is often called the City Council. Cities in the United States are located within larger regions called counties. Usually, each county has its own government.
The first Thanksgiving feast was held in Massachusetts in 1621.The Pilgrims who had traveled to this colony gave thanks for a successful fall harvest. They learned from local Native Americans, or Indians, which crops would grow and how best to grow them. The Indians’ lessons helped the Pilgrims grow enough food to survive the winter. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill that officially made the last Thursday of November Thanksgiving Day.
Jefferson was a Virginia lawyer and planter when he wrote the Declaration in 1776. He would become a very important political leader and thinker. Before becoming President, he was the governor of Virginia and the first U.S. Secretary of State. Jefferson strongly supported individual rights, especially freedom of religion. Because he wanted to protect these rights, Jefferson opposed a strong national government. Instead, he argued for states’ rights. He wanted America to be a nation of small farmers who actively participated in their democracy.
In 1774, representatives from 12 of the colonies met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the First Continental Congress. They protested British laws that treated them unfairly. They also began to organize an army. After fighting began between the colonists and the British army, a Second Continental Congress met. This group appointed Jefferson and others to create the Declaration of Independence. This document stated that, if a government does not protect the rights of the people, the people can create a new government. Following this idea, the colonists broke from their British rulers and formed a new country.
The Declaration is based on ideas about freedom and individual rights. For Jefferson and the Founding Fathers, people are born with natural rights that no government can take away. Government exists only to protect these rights. Because the people voluntarily give up power to a government, they can take that power back. The British government was not protecting the rights of the colonists, so they took back their power and separated from Great Britain.
During the War of 1812, British soldiers invaded the United States. On the night of September 13, 1814, British warships bombed Fort McHenry. This fort protected the city of Baltimore. An American named Francis Scott Key watched the fierce bombing, and thought that the fort would fall. As the sun rose the next morning, Key looked toward the fort. He saw that the American flag above the fort was still flying, proving that the United States had not been defeated. Key immediately wrote the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Key first wrote the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a poem. He named this poem “The Defence [sic] of Fort M’Henry.” Many years later music was added to the words of the poem. This music came from a piece called “Anacreon in Heaven.”The combination of the poem with the music created the song that is now so well-known. It was not until 1931 that Congress passed a law naming “The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem.
For most of U.S. history, Americans had to be at least 21 years old to vote. By the 1970s, many people thought that if someone was old enough to fight in a war, he or she should be old enough to vote. So, in 1971 the 26th Amendment changed the minimum voting age to 18.
A bill is a proposed law being considered by Congress. Both parts of Congress—the Senate and the House of Representatives—must pass the same version of the bill. When they do so, the bill goes to the President to be signed into law. The President does, however, have veto power.This means that the President can reject a bill passed by Congress. If two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate vote to pass the bill again, though, the bill becomes a law.This process is called overriding the President’s veto.
The U.S. Supreme Court exercises complete authority over all federal courts. It has the final word on cases heard in federal court. The Supreme Court’s interpretations of federal laws and of the Constitution are final. The Supreme Court is limited, though, in its power over states. It cannot interpret state law or state constitutions. The Court can, however, decide that a state law conflicts with federal law or the U.S. Constitution and is, thus, invalid.
We honor Abraham Lincoln because he led the nation during the Civil War, a very difficult time. The war began when a group of southern states, known as the Confederacy, tried to separate from the United States. They wanted to preserve slavery and their farm-based economic system. This system was threatened by the northern states. Lincoln was a lawyer, legislator, and celebrated speaker before he was President. He became nationally famous for his debates with Senator Stephen A. Douglas. These took place when Lincoln and Douglas ran against each other for Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat in 1858.
President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the middle of the Civil War, in 1863. It freed the slaves in the rebelling Confederate states. In 1865, the northern soldiers, known as the Union soldiers, defeated the soldiers from the South, known as the Confederate soldiers. The bitter, bloody Civil War was over, and the Union had been preserved. Soon afterwards, the 13th Amendment made the abolition of slavery part of the Constitution.
The Constitution says that the leaders of the executive departments should advise the President. These department leaders, most of them called Secretaries, make up the Cabinet. Throughout history, Presidents have been able to change who makes up the Cabinet. For instance, when Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, President George W. Bush added the leader of this department to his Cabinet.
Washington was a brave military general, a respected leader of the American Revolution, and our first President. His leadership was very important during America’s transition from war and revolution to stability under the new government. After his victory over the British army, Washington retired. He reluctantly left this retirement when problems arose with the new country’s system of government. Washington helped lead the effort to create a Constitution for the United States.
The writers of the Constitution argued over how much power the new President should have. They decided that the President’s powers should be limited in many ways, but that the President should be Commander-in-Chief of the military. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington had been supreme commander of the military. From this position, he led the U.S. forces to victory. This helped make him a unanimous choice to be the first President and Commander-in-Chief.
Hawaii is the only state completely separated from the continent of North America. There are six major islands and many smaller ones in this state. Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean, about 2,400 miles from Los Angeles, California. The islands officially became a U.S. territory in 1898. For many decades after this, Hawaiians pushed for Congress to make the territory a state. This finally happened in 1959.
At the time of the Pilgrims’ arrival, great Indian tribes such as the Navajo, Sioux, Cherokee, and Seminoles lived in America. When the Pilgrims came to America, they settled in an area where a tribe called the Wampanoag lived.The Wampanoag taught the Pilgrims important skills, such as how to grow corn, beans, and squash. As more Europeans moved to America, relations with the Indians were not always peaceful. Eventually, after much bloodshed, the settlers defeated the Indian tribes and took much of their land.
The Mayflower left from Plymouth, England, on September 6, 1620. After 65 days crossing the ocean, the ship landed in what is now the state of Massachusetts. Soon after, the Pilgrims signed an agreement called the Mayflower Compact. In it, the Pilgrims agreed to unite into a “Civil Body Politic.”The Compact did not set up a governing system, as the Constitution later would. It did, however, contain the idea that the people freely agreed to live under the government. The power of this government came directly from the people themselves.
European countries began taking control of areas of America in the 1500s.These European-controlled areas were called colonies. England’s first successful American colony was Virginia. Virginia began in 1607 as a small camp at Jamestown. Later, Pennsylvania was founded as a home for a religious group, the Quakers. This group opposed war and rejected all rituals and oaths. The Dutch colony of New Netherlands was captured by British forces in 1664 and renamed New York. The 13 American colonies would later unite into one country, but the history of each one was quite distinct.
Congress has formally declared war 11 times. The Senate vote for war was very close two of these times. These close votes took place before the War of 1812 and the Spanish- American War. Congress has not declared war since the United States entered World War II in 1941. However, seven times since then Congress has authorized military action. This step reflects the democratic tradition of the legislative branch approving the President’s use of troops.
Before the U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation was the document that established the U.S. system of government. The Articles were ratified in 1783. By 1786, many American leaders had become unhappy with this document. The national government it set up was simply too weak. In 1787, Congress decided that a convention would meet in Philadelphia to revise the Articles. At this meeting, the leaders quickly decided to go beyond revising the Articles. Instead, they wrote a whole new governing document—the Constitution.
One reason that millions of immigrants have come to America is this guarantee of rights. The 5thAmendment guarantees everyone in the United States equal protection under the law. This is true no matter what color your skin is, what language you speak, or what religion you practice. The 14th Amendment, ratified after the Civil War, expanded this guarantee of rights. No state would be able to abridge, or block, the rights of any of its citizens.
The preamble says: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.”This means that our government has been set up by the people, so that it can be responsive to them and protect their rights. All power to govern comes from the people, who are the highest power. This idea is known as popular sovereignty.
In 1791, an area between Maryland and Virginia was chosen to be the new capital city. French engineer Pierre L’Enfant was hired to plan the city. While L’Enfant chose the hill on which to build the Capitol building, he was not the one to actually design the building. A doctor, William Thornton, sent in the successful plan for the Capitol. President Washington approved this design in 1793. Congress first met in the Capitol building in November of 1800.
The White House was built between 1792 and 1800. President George Washington helped choose its exact location and supervised its construction, but never actually lived there. America’s second President, John Adams, was the first to live in the White House. Fourteen years after it was built, the White House was burned by British troops during the War of 1812. Another destructive fire took place there in 1929, when Herbert Hoover was President.
When the Constitution established our nation in 1789, the city of Washington did not exist. At that time, the capital was New York City. Congress soon began discussing the location of a permanent capital city. Within Congress, representatives of northern states fought bitterly against representatives of southern states. Each side wanted the capital to be in their region. Finally, with the Compromise of 1790, the north agreed to let the capital be in the south. In return, the north was relieved of some of the debt that they owed from the Revolutionary War.
These 1st Amendment rights are all part of a person’s freedom of expression. Protecting free expression promotes open dialogue and debate on public issues, which is the foundation of democracy. Similarly, the free flow of ideas facilitates peaceful change and advances knowledge. Also in the 1st Amendment, freedom of religion has two parts. It blocks Congress from setting up an official U.S. religion, and it protects citizens’ rights to hold any religious belief, or none at all.
Making the President the Commander-in-Chief shows the Founding Fathers’ commitment to democratic ideals. This is because the head of the armed forces is a civilian chosen by the people, rather than a professional military leader. In 1973, many in Congress felt that the President was using his power as Commander-in-Chief wrongly. They thought that the legislative branch was being ignored, which harmed checks and balances. So Congress passed the War Powers Act, which strengthens the role of Congress in the use of U.S. troops. President Richard Nixon vetoed this bill, but Congress overrode his veto.
The Constitution did not set a standard national election day. There was no specified day until 1845. Even then, Congress did not set an exact date for elections. Rather, Congress set the Tuesday after the first Monday in November as Election Day. They chose Tuesday so that voters had a full day after Sunday to travel to the polls. At that time, for religious reasons, many Americans considered Sunday to be a strict day of rest. Travel on this day was not allowed.
Before 1933, Presidents were inaugurated on March 4th. This meant that there were four months between when new Presidents were elected and when they took office. This gave the new President enough time to make the long journey to Washington, DC. By the 1930s, with the invention of automobiles and speedy trains, it was much faster to travel. The 20th Amendment officially changed the date of inauguration to January 20th. Franklin Roosevelt was the first President inaugurated on this date.
Several states, such as California, have term limits for members of their state legislature. Also, several states have considered limiting the number of terms that their U.S. Senators and Representatives can serve. In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that no state can do this. The Court stated that such a practice would weaken the national character of Congress. The only way that Congressional terms could be limited is through an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The job of the executive branch is to carry out, or execute, the laws of the nation. While the Constitution does discuss the Cabinet, it does not say what each federal department or agency should do. Throughout U.S. history, Congress has established the specific functions of these organizations. The State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and Environmental Protection Agency are three examples of federal departments.
Freedom of speech is a very important civil liberty. The very first section of the Bill of Rights, the 1st Amendment, guarantees this freedom. Speech can mean writing, performing, or other ways of expressing yourself. Americans have the basic right to express their views on any subject. This is true even if the government disagrees with these views. However, in certain very specific situations, freedom of expression is limited. For example, no one can shout “fire!” in a theater and cause panic.
The Constitution did not clearly set up a naturalization process. It gave Congress the power to create “a uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Beginning in 1790, Congress passed laws to govern naturalization. Since then, Congress has changed this process many times. The naturalization exam is a very important part of the current process.
In a republic, the power that the government exercises comes from the people themselves. Government is therefore responsible for protecting the rights of all persons, not just a few special people. The way this happens in the United States is through a system of representative democracy. The people freely choose who will lead them and represent their interests. President Abraham Lincoln said our republican government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
One of the great things about the U.S. Constitution is that it is flexible, and can be changed. It is changed through an addition called an Amendment. This is why we often refer to it as the “living Constitution.”The Constitution’s writers wisely decided that Amendments should be rare. Because of this, the Amendment process is difficult. Still, the Constitution has been changed 27 times, with the most recent Amendment added in 1992.
No American is required by law to vote, but exercising your right to vote is a very important part of citizenship. This is the case in any democracy. Only by voting can your voice be heard. By voting, you actively commit yourself to the democratic process. Citizens vote to be represented by leaders who share their ideas and stand up for their interests. Constitutional Amendments such as the 15th (former slaves can vote) and 19th (women can vote) greatly improved our democracy. They did this by allowing more groups of citizens to vote.
The building was not officially known as the White House until 1901, when Theodore Roosevelt was President. Before then, it was also called the “President’s Palace,” the “President’s House,” and the “Executive Mansion.”The current look of the White House comes from a renovation that happened when Harry Truman was President.
When Congress moved into the Capitol in 1800, much of the construction of interior rooms was not complete. It took two more years before Congress set aside funding to finish construction. Soon after, when British troops invaded Washington during the War of 1812, they set fire to the Capitol. Luckily, a heavy rainstorm saved the building from being burned down. Rebuilding the massive Capitol was not completed until 1829.