The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It was written in Philadelphia in 1787 and was signed by all the states in 1789. It set up our government in three branches so that no one person could have all the power, like a king.

The people who wrote the Constitution were wise enough to know that changes might have to be made in the future. These change are called amendments. So far, there have been 27 amendments to the Constitution. One of these Amendments made 18 the legal age to vote in any election. The first ten amendments were added at the same time the Constitution was written. They have a special name: The Bill of Rights. These explain the rights of the citizens and non-citizens that cannot be taken away by the government. The First Amendment rights include: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the right to complain about the government. Other rights are: right to trial by jury, right to have an attorney, the right to bear arms. The government needs a warrant to search a citizen's property. A person may not be tried twice for the same crime and does not have to testify against himself. The most important benefit of becoming a citizen of the United States is gaining the right to vote. Amendments 15, 19, 24 and 26 talk about the vote. They say that every citizen who is 18 years old can vote and there can never be any cost to the citizen for this right.

The preamble to the Constitution is very famous: You should be familiar with these words:
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.

In simpler words it says: We are the people of the United States and we want to have a better country. We will have an army, we will make sure everyone is treated equally. We want peace in our country, but we will have an army and fight if necessary. We want a good life for ourselves and our children. That is why we have written this Constitution. No state, county or city can make a law that is not in agreement with the Constitution. This is the highest law in the country. But any rights not given to the national government is given to the state and the people.

True and False Questions

1. The Constitution has been changed 28 times.


2. All the states signed the Constitution by 1787.


3. Citizens must be 21 years old to vote.


4. The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.


5. The U.S. government has 3 branches.


6. California can write laws for California that do not agree with the U.S. Constitution.


7. The first part of the Constitution is called the Preface.


8. The Constitution was written in Washington, D.C.


9. Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the First Amendment.


10. A person cannot be forced to testify against himself.