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U.S. Constitution For Dummies

ISBN: 978-0-7645-8780-1
408 pages
May 2009
U.S. Constitution For Dummies (0764587803) cover image


An in-depth look at the defining document of America

Want to make sense of the U.S. Constitution? This plain-English guide walks you through this revered document, explaining how the articles and amendments came to be and how they have guided legislators, judges, and presidents and sparked ongoing debates. You'll understand all the big issues — from separation of church and state to impeachment to civil rights — that continue to affect Americans' daily lives.

  • Get started with Constitution basics — explore the main concepts and their origins, the different approaches to interpretation, and how the document has changed over the past 200+ years
  • Know who has the power — see how the public, the President, Congress, and the Supreme Court share in the ruling of America

  • Balance the branches of government — discover what it means to be Commander in Chief, the functions of the House and Senate, and how Supreme Court justices are appointed

  • Break down the Bill of Rights — from freedom of religion to the prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments," understand what the first ten amendments mean

  • Make sense of the modifications — see how amendments have reformed presidential elections, abolished slavery, given voting rights to women, and more

Open the book and find:

  • The text of the Constitution and its ammendments
  • Discussion of controversial issues including the death penalty, abortion, and gay marriage

  • Why the word "democracy" doesn't appear in the Constitution

  • What the Electoral College is and how it elects a President

  • Details on recent Supreme Court decisions

  • The Founding Fathers' intentions for balancing power in Washington

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Table of Contents

Foreword xix

Introduction 1

Part I: Exploring Constitutional Basics 7

Chapter 1: Constitutional Law: The Framework for Governance 9

Chapter 2: Framing the U.S. Constitution: Big Thinkers, Big Thoughts 17

Chapter 3: Debating the Constitution 31

Chapter 4: Introducing . . . the Constitution! The Preamble and the Seven Articles 43

Chapter 5: Amending versus Interpreting the Constitution: Taking Time for Change 53

Part II: We the People: How the United States Is Governed 65

Chapter 6: Scrutinizing Sovereignty: Who Rules America? 67

Chapter 7: Federalism: Forming One out of Many 79

Chapter 8: Separation of Powers: To Each His Own 91

Chapter 9: Doing Business: The Commerce Clause101

Part III: Balancing the Branches of Government: The President, Congress, and the Judiciary 113

Chapter 10: Looking at the Role of Commander in Chief 115

Chapter 11: Giving Everyone a Voice: The House of Representatives and Senate 139

Chapter 12: “During Good Behaviour”: The Judicial System 157

Chapter 13: You’re Fired! Investigating the Impeachment Process 179

Part IV: The Bill of Rights: Specifying Rights through Amendments 193

Chapter 14: The First Amendment: Freedom of Religion, Speech, and Assembly 195

Chapter 15: The Second Amendment: Bearing Arms 207

Chapter 16: The Third and Fourth Amendments: Protecting Citizens from Government Forces 217

Chapter 17: Taking the Fifth — and a Bit of the Fourteenth 231

Chapter 18: Dealing with Justice and Individual Rights: The Sixth through Eighth Amendments 247

Chapter 19: The Ninth and Tenth Amendments: Leaving Things Up to the People and States 263

Part V: Addressing Liberties and Modifying the Government: More Amendments 277

Chapter 20: States’ Rights, Elections, and Slavery: The Eleventh through Thirteenth Amendments 279

Chapter 21: The Fourteenth Amendment: Ensuring Equal Protection 291

Chapter 22: Starts, Stops, and Clarifications: Amendments since 1870 305

Part VI: The Part of Tens 321

Chapter 23: Ten Landmark Constitutional Cases 323

Chapter 24: Ten Influential Supreme Court Justices 329

Chapter 25: Two Sides of Five Constitutional Conundrums 337

Appendix: Constitution of the United States of America 345

Index 369

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Author Information

Dr. Michael Arnheim is a practicing British barrister, mediator, and academic, as well as the author of a text on British constitutional law. He consults with various U.S. firms on constitutional issues.
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