This section contains information, facts, and worksheets on key acts, constitutions & bills throughout the history of the United States.
Throughout the history of the world, people have governed themselves in various ways. In many modern western countries, the general model is a constitutional democracy. Democracy can be simply defined as a system where people rule through their vote. This is different to monarchies in previous centuries, for example, where the ruling king or queen called all the shots.
This is primarily what the young United States, as a colony, was fighting against. The Revolutionary War ensued and the United States gained its independence and began growing into a democracy. The model proved so revolutionary, that other countries soon followed suit.
But what’s to stop those that have been elected to represent the people from taking decision-making into their own hands? The Constitution. This document lays out the boundaries and keeps power in check.
Ratified on 21 June 1788, the U.S. Constitution was the brainchild of America’s Founding Fathers and brought together the ideas of many into one document. As the supreme law, it reinforces the notion of democracy through the opening word “We the People.”
But where people are concerned, things can change. In the time since the U.S. Constitution came into effect, it has been tweaked 27 times. In some instances, this has been to repeal old ideas and, in other cases, to meet the changing needs and ideas of a nation that’s evolved considerably over the last 250 years.
The first 10 elements of the Constitution, which form the Bill of Rights, protect citizens from abuse of power. These include freedoms such as petitioning and assembly (1st Amendment) and rights such as bearing arms (2nd Amendment) and a fair trial (6th Amendment). In later years, ideas became bills and bills turned into acts added to the Constitution, which have changed the very fabric of society to be more democratic. These included the abolition of slavery (13th Amendment), civil rights (14th Amendment), black suffrage (15th Amendment) and women’s suffrage (19th Amendment), which all have contributed to greater equality in American society.
Some ideas were less popular in the long-term, however, such as the prohibition of liquor (18th Amendment), which was repealed in the 21st Amendment. And in present-day America, much debate surrounds whether elements of the Constitution, like the right to bear arms, are relevant in a modern society battling gun violence, for example.
As society and technology continue to evolve, the answers to questions of present-day LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality, gun violence, freedom of religion and minority equality, to name just some, and future questions of Artificial Intelligence rights and privacy will come to be expressed in Acts and Amendments to the Constitution.
Get to know more about America’s Constitution and notable Acts in this category. If there’s something you’re interested in that we don’t have, contact us!