2017 America's Legacy Book NEW

Written for middle and high school students, the 2017 "America's Legacy" book focuses on the text and history of the United States’ Founding Documents, including the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. Additional sections cover the elements of citizenship (how to be a good American citizen); the three branches of government and separation of powers; and excerpts from great American speeches. Interesting “Freedom Facts” and SGAP infographics are included throughout the book.

America’s Legacy



Dear SGAP Students: On behalf of the Student Governmental Affairs Program (SGAP), I am proud to introduce our updated edition of “America’s Legacy: Foundation of Freedom.” This book includes some of our country’s most important founding documents and speeches, along with the keys to being a good American citizen. “America’s Legacy” was created for students like you in all 50 states. The infographics in this book were originally designed for our partner Discovery Education, for whom SGAP provides civics education content. In creating this book, it is our desire that readers would be better informed about our country’s heritage and the sacrifices made by its founders. We hope you enjoy learning from this book as much as we enjoyed compiling it.


RANDEL D. FORD President Student Governmental Affairs Program (SGAP)

2435 N. Central Expressway, Richardson, TX 75080 800-806-7427 | civics@sgap.org | www.sgap.org


America’s Legacy

USA: Land of Liberty How to Be a Good American Citizen Immmigration Nation Three Branches of Government Declaration of Independence Articles of Confederation The United States Constitution The Federalist Papers The Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10) Constitutional Amendments 11-27 Great American Speeches About SGAP

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© 2017 Student Governmental Affairs Program (SGAP)



You may know the pledge’s words by heart, but have you thought about their meaning? How did the U.S. become the land of “Liberty and Justice for all”? The answer lies in our country’s founding documents.

Land of Liberty

Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness

In 1776, through the Declaration of Independence, the United States declared its freedom from the British kingdom. In this document, our country’s founders bravely asserted that people have inherent rights, including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Eleven years later, in 1787, our country’s founders wrote the Constitution, laying the foundation for a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Indeed, the first three words of the Constitution are “We the People.” This new system of government had never been tried before. Our country’s founders sought to protect the rights of individuals by dividing the federal government’s power into three branches — legislative (Congress), executive (president) and judicial (courts). This separation of powers ensured that checks and balances were in place so no one branch gained too much power. FREEDOM FACT The U.S. Constitution is the oldest and shortest written constitution of any major government in the world. Its principles — including the rule of law, separation of powers and recognition of individual rights — serve as a model for governance around the world.

lib•er•ty 1: the quality or state of being free: a. freedom from arbitrary or despotic control b. the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges “I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” The Pledge of Allegiance is a statement of loyalty to our country, the United States of America. Members of Congress say it together before congressional sessions begin and it’s often recited at the start of the school day.

The Founders on Freedom

The Founders on Freedom






“I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

“What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned that [the] people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

“Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.”

“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”


United States at a Glance

This experiment in democracy was the first of its kind at the time. Today, more than 240 years later, our country is viewed as the land of liberty by nations and peoples of the world.

S I ZE : Population of 325 million+ The U.S. is the third largest country by population (after China and India) and by size (after Canada and Russia). TOP 5 POPULAT ION CENTERS : 1. New York City 2. Los Angeles 3. Chicago 4. Dallas, Fort Forth 5. Houston 1

This is America’s legacy.

❝ The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.


VI TAL STATS : Life Expectancy: 78.8 years Median Age: 37.9

Heirs of Our American Heritage

High school graduate or higher: 86.7% Bachelor’s degree or higher: 29.8% 2

Although Americans enjoy many freedoms, with these rights comes great responsibility.

If “We the People” expect to retain these rights, we must pay attention to what is going on in our country. And we must do our civic duty by voting, serving jury duty and obeying our laws.

RAC IAL PERCENTAGES : White (Non-Hispanic): 61.3% Hispanic: 17.8% Black or African-American: 13.3% Asian: 5.7% Two or more races: 2.6% American Indian/Alaska Native: 1.3% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0.2% 3

Soon, it will be your generation’s turn to protect and defend this legacy of liberty.

It will be up to you and your peers to preserve the freedoms guaranteed in these founding documents. Of course, first you must read them.

1 Based on 2015 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. 2 Based on 2015 data from the National Center for Health Statistics. 3 Population estimates as of July 1, 2016, from the U.S. Census Bureau.

That is the purpose of this book — to share America’s legacy with the generation who will lead our country into the future. ✦


Vote in All Elections The right to vote for our leadership is one of the greatest privileges granted to Americans by the Constitution. It is grounded in the faith that the collective judgment of “We the People” will enable us to choose the candidates that reflect our will. Our laws are made by members of Congress who are chosen by American voters. No one has more power than anyone else at the polls. Every vote counts. Voting is a form of personal empowerment. It gives you the opportunity to voice your opinion on issues that matter to you. Don’t assume that it won’t matter if you don’t vote. Elections are often won by slimmargins. Make your voice, and the voice of your generation, heard by voting in all elections . Visit vote.gov to get started. ❝ As young Americans, you have an important responsibility, which is to become good citizens. GEORGE W. BUSH , PRES IDENT ( 2001 - 2009 ) Voice Your Opinions Stay informed on national and local news as well as issues in your own state. Decide where you stand on issues and voice your opinion to those in leadership positions. Contact your elected officials when there are issues that matter to you. Even if you’re too young to vote, you represent the generation of the future; thus, your views matter. You can also write letters to your members of Congress and to the editors of your local newspapers.


How to Be a Good American Citizen

W hether you are a natural-born or naturalized American citizen, you are living under a system of government based on fairness and freedom. It is based on the oldest written constitution in the world still in force. THE FREEDOMS AMERICANS ENJOY today were hard-won and must not be taken for granted. We must work for freedom and democracy to keep them working for us. By actively participating in your government at the national, state and local levels, you will help safeguard these freedoms. Are you a true citizen of the United States, or just a fortunate resident of this great nation? Along with the rights and privileges that we enjoy come responsibilities. Here are some of the ways you can be a good American citizen. If you honor these responsibilities, you and your generation will continue to enjoy the American heritage of freedom.

To find contact information for federal, state and local elected officials and government agencies, visit usa.gov/agencies .

Serve Jury Duty

Being selected to serve on a jury is the other side of the right of trial by jury, one of our most powerful freedoms. The framers of the Constitution were so concerned about unjust persecution and being convicted of crimes without due process that they addressed the right of trial by jury in the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights’ Sixth Amendment. This is why it’s so important to go to jury duty if you receive a notice. Citizens who dodge this responsibility erode the foundation we have against injustice.

ON VOTING DAY, VOLUNTEERWORKERS AT POLLING STATIONS give “I Voted” stickers to people after they vote. You may have seen selfies of people wearing the iconic “I Voted” stickers in your social media feeds. Many businesses offer freebies and discounts to wearers.



Have you recently become a citizen, or, conveniently, been one since birth? Congratulations! An American citizen, whether naturalized or natural born, has many opportunities, privileges and rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws governing the country:

Right to vote in elections

Freedom of expression

Freedom to worship

Right to a fair trial by jury

Freedom to enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”

In addition to rights and benefits, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services emphasizes the responsibilities we have as citizens:

Support and defend the Constitution

Stay informed of the issues affecting your community

Participate in the democratic process

Respect and obey federal, state & local laws

Respect the rights, beliefs & opinions of others

Participate in your local community

Pay income/other taxes honestly & on time

Serve on a jury when called upon

Defend the country if the need should arise

Think it Through 1. What rights do you think are most important? 2. Are there other rights that should be guaranteed to citizens?

3. Should all citizens have the same rights? If yes, why? If no, why not? 4. What actions do you take to be a responsible citizen of the United States?

AMER I CA’ S LEGACY PRESENTED BY STUDENT GOVERNMENTAL AFFA I RS PROGRAM | 7 www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/us-immigration/permanent-resident-vs-citizen-difference.htm; www.constitution.org/powright.htm; www.immigration.about.com/od/uscitizenship/a/Citizenship_Rights_Responsibilities. htm; www.uscis.gov; www.ushistory.org/gov/10d.asp STUDENT GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS PROGRAM | SGAP.org |

Good Citizen Checklist •


Pay Taxes

Read the U.S. founding documents

Register to vote, and vote in all elections

It’s human nature to resent the government, even when it’s your elected government, taking its share of your income. But it’s also human nature to demand the conveniences, improvements and protections that our taxes fund. Taxes pay for highways, police and fire protection, military forces, clean water and safe food. They make possible the public schools, libraries and parks. Taxes represent the cost of our government doing business. They are determined by the people we elect to office, whomwe give the right to allocate our money where it is needed. Serve in the Military Probably the greatest of all governmental powers is the power to declare war. Every American’s deepest hope is that we will never have to fight another war. But, if military conflicts arise, the military will keep us safe. Serve in the military and support our troops. Respect Other People The United States was founded by immigrants from other lands who were bound by shared American values. We do not have one particular culture, religion or heritage, but rather many that have been brought to our shores by immigrants from around the world. Tolerance is not only “putting up” with other people who are different from us. It’s the spirit of trying to understand them. Respect the dignity of every person you encounter, even if their views differ from yours.

Stay informed on national and local issues

Voice your opinions to your elected officials

Respect police officers and firefighters

Volunteer for charitable causes

Join the military or service organizations (e.g. Peace Corps)

Protect the environment by recycling and conserving energy

Be a good neighbor and respect diverse opinions

Support Education and Schools AMassachusetts law enacted in 1647 founded the first system of public education in the American colonies. Today, every state has a compulsory education law and publicly controlled schools that are free and open to everyone. Learning does not stop with any graduation or degree, but is a lifelong pursuit. Thus, education is nowmore important than ever. Our nation’s future depends on educated citizens who will commit to learning the skills that will lead us into the future. Give Back As citizens, each of us has an obligation to make our community a better place. Giving back means giving of your time and abilities; it means helping to paint an elderly person’s home, cleaning trash from a lake, coaching a local sports team or answering phones at a hotline number.

❝ JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRES IDENT ( 1961 - 1963 ) My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Obey Our Laws

Our system of self-government protects people’s rights through the rule of law, which restricts the arbitrary use of power by limiting it to established laws. If you were ever accused of a crime, you would still have the right to a speedy trial by jury because of the Sixth Amendment. Thus, laws are put in place to ensure everyone is treated fairly and society functions as a whole. No one in this country is so important that they are above the law, or so unimportant that they can’t depend on the law for protection.

Honor the Past

The United States was founded by visionary leaders who created a great nation through their words and actions. With this in mind, on the pages that follow are some of the documents and speeches that have shaped who we are as a nation and which provide the blueprint for who we have the potential to become. ✦


Are you smarter than a newU.S. citizen?


What is the U.S. CitizenshipTest?

The U.S. Citizenship Test is one of the final steps for Green Card holders to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

Composed of two main sections, the English test and the Civics test, perhaps the most well-known part of the naturalization process.

A USCIS officer asks you up to 10 questions from a list of 100 Civics questions in English during the interview.

You must orally answer 6 of the 10 questions correctly in order to pass the Civics (History and Government) test.

Tests an applicant’s ability to read, write and speak English.

Tests an applicant’s knowledge of U.S. History and U.S. Government.

Applicants have two attempts to pass the test.

Origins of the NaturalizationCivics Test

Prior to 1906, naturalization was under the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts. In 1906 the Federal Bureau of Naturalization began to oversee/standardize national naturalization proceedings.

Exams seem to have been random, with the degree of questioning depending on the applicants’ answers. Judges asked the questions in open court and candidates responded orally.

In 1906, the Federal Bureau of Naturalization began to standardize the naturalization process. In 2008, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services redesigned the English and civics test for greater fairness and to ensure all applicants had the same testing experience.

Naturalization exams from the 19 th and early 20 th centuries are nearly impossible to locate and varied widely.

TEST Are you smarter than a newUnited States citizen?

What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States? Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?

Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?

What territory did the United States buy fromFrance in 1803?

Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

Why does the flag have 13 stripes?

The following are examples of Civics questions about American history and the government you may be asked during the Citizenship test. Take this short sample test and see how well you do.

Think it Through 1. Do you think this test is fair in determining whether or not Green Card holders can become naturalized U.S. citizens? If yes, why is it fair? If no, what would you change about the test? 2. Given your knowledge on U.S. history and civics do you believe that you would be able to pass the Citizenship Test? Explain. 3. What other tests or criteria should the U.S. government use in determining whether a person should become a U.S. citizen?

STUDENT GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS PROGRAM | SGAP.ORG | Sources: www.immigration.terra.com/citizenship_test.html; www.my.uscis.gov/prep/test/civics; www.uscis.gov/citizenship/teachers/educational-products/100-civics-questions-and-answers-mp3-audio-english-version; www.uscis. gov/history-and-genealogy/history-and-genealogy-news/origins-naturalization-civics-test; www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartE-Chapter1.html; www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship/naturalization-test


Immigration Speech


Immigration Nation T he United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from around the world and adopting many of their customs and cuisines. THIS FUSION OF NATIONALITIES, cultures and ethnicities has formed what it means to be American today. All people in the United States were immigrants originally. Our country was founded by people who were foreign-born and immigrated to America as adults. You have ancestors in your family tree who immigrated to the United States at some point, whether they traveled to America on the Mayflower in 1620, arrived by ship at New York City’s Ellis Island in the early 1900s, or just recently immigrated here. People immigrate to the United States for a variety of reasons. They may be driven by the desire for religious freedom or seek economic opportunities.

GIVEN ON NOV. 20 , 2014 BY PRES IDENT BARACK OBAMA ( 2009 - 2017 )

“...My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. “What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. “That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.”

Families may want to escape poverty or oppression, or create a better life for themselves. Immigrants benefit our country economically, politically and socially. Today’s American culture is the result of the merging of diverse ethnicities and cultures over many years. Each new generation of immigrants helps shape what it means to be American. ✦

FREEDOM FACT If you’re a naturalized citizen, you chose to become one by going through the legal process and taking a test. If you’re a natural born citizen , you were either born in the U.S. or your parents were American citizens.

CERTIFICATES OF CITIZENSHIP AND NATURALIZATION both serve as proof of U.S. citizenship, but the eligibility requirements differ. A Certificate of Citizenship is available to people who were born abroad and derived U.S. citizenship through birth or adoption by a U.S. citizen parent while a Certificate of Naturalization is given to a lawful permanent resident.


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Three Branches of Government

T he separation of powers the founders built into the Constitution was purely an American invention. It was even achieved symbolically in the Constitution by describing each branch in a separate article of the document. THE CONSTITUTION’S FIRST THREE articles divide the federal government into three branches — legislative, executive and judicial — giving specific powers to each branch. This separation of powers ensures that no one branch gains too much power. All the branches must work together to share power and create a central government. Each branch can check the powers of the other branches; thus, the government’s power is balanced. This system is called “checks and balances.” Although power is balanced within the government, it does not originate there. The most important provision the Constitution makes is that the government must derive its power from the people. This is why the very first words of the Constitution are “We the People of the United States.”

It is the people who give the power to our country’s government and limit what it can do. The people elect officials to direct the government’s activities. And the people can elect new officials to replace those whose policies have become unpopular. The American system of government is thus divided, limited and democratically controlled. THE CONSTITUTION’S FIRST THREE ARTICLES divide the federal government into three branches — legislative (Congress), executive (president) and judicial (courts). This separation of powers ensures no one branch has too much power. Visit youtu.be/cClen3fI6uo to watch the video.


Under the Articles of Confederation , which was the precursor to the Constitution, Congress was a unicameral legislature where each state had

one vote. Also, the government’s power was exclusively centered in Congress rather than spread among three branches.

Our Government of ‘We the People’ by the Numbers




MEMBERS OF CONGRESS (Legislative Branch)

PRESIDENT (Executive Branch)


100 serve in the U.S. Senate and 435 serve in the U.S. House of Representatives

The Cabinet includes the vice president and the heads of 15 executive departments

The Supreme Court comprises 9 judges called justices; this branch also includes the lower court federal judges


The Legislative Branch The framers of the Constitution gave more space to the legislative, or lawmaking, branch of the government than to the other two branches combined because they expected the greater power to lie with Congress. Article I of the Constitution specifies the two separate legislative bodies that make up Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate . How the House and Senate Differ Although they are considered equal, the two chambers differ in a number of ways, including size and rules, terms of office, base of representation, requirements of office and special powers under the Constitution. The House of Representatives has 435 members, or one elected from each congressional district. The Senate has 100 members, or two elected from each state. The House is presided over by the Speaker of the House, who is nominated by the majority political party in that chamber. The vice president of the United States presides over the Senate. Because of its larger size, the House has stricter rules than the Senate. Members of the House are elected to two-year terms of office. Since representatives must seek reelection much more frequently than senators, they pay especially close attention to the opinions of their constituents or the people in the districts they represent.

How Congress Checks Power

Congress can check the president by:

• Refusing to pass a bill the president wants • Passing a law over the president’s veto • Using impeachment powers to remove the president from office • Refusing to approve a presidential appointment (Senate only) • Refusing to ratify a treaty the president has signed (Senate only)

Congress can check the federal courts by:

• Changing the number and jurisdiction of the lower courts • Using impeachment powers to remove a judge from office • Refusing to approve a person nominated to be a judge

Committee Consideration of Bills Except for bills concerning revenue, bills may be introduced in either chamber. They are then referred to a committee, where much of the important work of the Congress occurs. Each committee has its own specialty such as agriculture, health, taxation, energy or education. The committees distribute bills to even more specialized subcommittees. Since committees have limited time, only a small percentage of bills referred to them are addressed. Many bills simply die in committee. If a bill is of particular importance, the committee will usually schedule hearings to gather information about it and listen to the opinions of those who favor or oppose it. Only if the committee votes to report (approve) the bill will it be scheduled for consideration by the chamber’s full membership. Floor Consideration of Bills On the floor of the chamber, a bill is subject to debate, and amendments to it may be made or it may be returned to the committee. If passed in one chamber, the bill must then be sent to the other chamber, where the entire process begins again. Because a bill will rarely pass both chambers of Congress in the same form, a conference committee is selected to work out differences between the Senate and House versions. Only then can the legislation be sent to the president, who must sign it before it can become law. If the president vetoes (disapproves) a bill, it requires a two-thirds majority vote of members present in both the House and Senate for passage.

Senators are elected to six-year terms, and the Constitution requires one-third of the Senate to be elected every two years.

The Senate has special responsibility for the approval of treaties with foreign countries. This gives the Senate more influence in foreign policy matters. Candidates nominated by the president for the cabinet and federal judges require approval by the Senate.

However, all bills for raising revenue must originate in the House. Further, the House has the sole power of impeachment.

THE U.S. CAPITOL BUILDING IS THE HOME OF CONGRESS and the seat of the legislative branch. It sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Capitol forms the origin point for the District’s street-numbering system and four quadrants.


How the President Checks Power


The Executive Branch In establishing the office of President of the United States, the founders had no precise models to follow. The earliest American executive, the colonial governor, had come to be regarded as the enemy of liberty, and the reigning British monarch, King George III, as a symbol of tyranny. In developing the role of a new national executive, the founders were influenced by political writers such as John Locke, Montesquieu and Sir William Blackstone. All three theorists advocated a systemwith separate executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Montesquieu also advocated for permitting each branch to exert “checks and balances” against the others. ❝ WOODROW WI LSON , PRES IDENT ( 1913 - 1921 ) One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to be supplied is light, not heat. The president is the chief executive of the United States. He develops federal policies, prepares national budgets, enforces federal laws, appoints officials and manages the executive branch. He also holds the title of chief of state, which means he is the

• Checks Congress by vetoing a bill it has passed

• Withhold information from Congress on the grounds of executive privilege

• Checks the federal courts by nominating judges

country’s foremost representative. In this capacity, the president performs ceremonial duties and meets with leaders of foreign nations. The president may also veto or reject legislation that he feels should not become law. His powers include nominating candidates for positions in his cabinet, Supreme Court justices, federal court justices and U.S. district attorneys. He also may pardon criminals. Two of the most visible elements of the executive branch are the White House office staff and the president’s cabinet, which originated in the administration of George Washington. The millions of civilians and military personnel who work in the executive branch are called the president’s administration. The president is also commander in chief of the armed forces. The fact that the armed forces are led by the president, who is a civilian and not a military officer, guarantees democratic control over this powerful military organization. The presidency has proved adaptive to the changing needs of society. It is the president who has been the symbol of our nation — its hopes, fears, aspirations, disappointments and victories.

President Theodore Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name in 1901. Today, there are 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, eight staircases and three elevators in the residence.


Powers Of The President:

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH makes laws Congress is made up of: • The Senate 100 elected senators • The House of Representatives 435 voting representatives

The three branches of government have checks and balances to distribute power or control equally.

JUDICIAL BRANCH evaluates laws Supreme Court: 9 justices


Head of government of the United States of America

Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces

Head of state – Represents the people and stands for the highest values and ideals of the country

Appoints the heads of more than 50 independent federal commissions

EXECUTIVE BRANCH carries out laws President, Vice President, and President’s Cabinet 15 executive departments

Holds the power either to sign legislation into law or to veto bills enacted by Congress

Execution and enforcement of the laws created by Congress

Unlimited power to extend pardons and clemencies for federal crimes, except in cases of impeachment

POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT Inherent powers : powers inferred from the Constitution Legislative powers : outlines the administration’s legislative agenda Appointment powers : selects many people to serve the government Treaty power : negotiates treaties with other nations

Think it Through 1. What do you think might happen if checks and balances within our government didn’t exist? 2. What would happen if the President was the only person in power? 3. How would you change the U.S. government’s structure of the three branches of government?

AMER I CA’ S LEGACY PRESENTED BY STUDENT GOVERNMENTAL AFFA I RS PROGRAM | 15 STUDENT GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS PROGRAM | SGAP.org | https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/executive-branch; https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/cabinet; http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm; http://www.house.gov/representa- tives; https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/barackobama; http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0777009.

How the Courts Check Power


The Judicial Branch Congress established the federal court system in the Judiciary Act of 1789. Article III of the Constitution says little more than that the nation’s judicial power should be in the hands of a Supreme Court and any such lower courts Congress may create. Details of the courts’ organization and work are left largely to Congress. The highest court in the nation is the United States Supreme Court. Its basic duty is to determine whether federal, state and local governments are acting according to the Constitution. The Supreme Court does its job by deciding specific legal cases on the basis of established legal rules. Much of its work involves rules that are laid down in the Constitution. These rules are stated in general terms, and the Supreme Court must determine their meaning and apply them to the cases it decides. ❝ What in the world is a moderate interpretation of a constitutional text? Halfway between what it says and what we’d like it to say?

• Check Congress by declaring a law unconstitutional

Check the president by declaring his or his subordinates’ actions to be unconstitutional or not authorized by law

normally reviewed first by the courts of appeals, but in a few cases, the Supreme Court reviews the decisions of federal district courts. Cases are decided by majority vote. If a tie occurs, the lower court decision is left standing. The parties have no further appeal. Membership in the Supreme Court The Supreme Court has nine members — a chief justice and eight associate justices. The number is set by the U.S. Congress and has changed through the years. The Constitution sets no qualifications for justices but says they shall be appointed by the president, with the advice and consent of the Senate. All justices have legal experience, and most have been prominent judges, lawyers, law professors or government officials. Once appointed, justices may remain in office for life. A justice can only be removed through impeachment for corruption or other abuses of office, but that has never occurred. There are many traditions observed by the justices. For example, they wear black robes when they are in court, and white quill pens are still placed on counsel tables each day that the court is in session. The annual term of the court begins the first Monday in October and usually ends in June. The justices also have a special way of greeting each other called a “conference handshake.” When they first come into the court, each justice shakes hands with each of the other eight members. Justices are given seats in the court according to how long they have served. The chief justice sits in the center chair. The senior associate justice sits to his right, the second senior associate to his left and so on according to seniority. ✦


One of the most important powers the Supreme Court has is the ability to declare laws unconstitutional, or invalid. This is known as the power of judicial review and it allows the Supreme Court to check the power of the other two branches of the federal government as well as that of the states’ governments. A Supreme Court decision has great importance. Once it decides a constitutional question, all other courts throughout the United States are required to follow the decision in similar cases. In this way, the Supreme Court helps guarantee equal legal justice to all Americans. Authority of the Supreme Court The Constitution gives the Supreme Court two types of authority: 1) original jurisdiction and 2) appellate jurisdiction. The court has original jurisdiction in cases affecting ambassadors or other representatives of foreign countries and in cases in which a state is one of the parties. Most of the work of the Supreme Court comes from its appellate jurisdiction , which is its authority to confirm or reverse lower court decisions. Supreme Court cases come from the federal courts of appeals and the highest state courts. Federal district court decisions are

FREEDOM FACT Congress established the federal court system in the Judiciary Act of 1789 . Article III of the Constitution says that the nation’s judicial power should be in the hands of a Supreme

Court and any such lower courts Congress may create. Details of the courts’ organization and work are left largely to Congress.


A Lifetime of Law: The Process of Supreme Court Appointments Article III of the Constitution establishes the Judicial Branch of our government, represented by the Supreme Court. The structure of the court is left to Congress — there have been as few as six members, but since 1869 we’ve held to the standard of nine justices, including a chief justice. All justices are nominated by the president, confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate, and hold their offices for life.

The only way a federal judge can be “fired” from his or her job is through impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction in the Senate. Otherwise, justices serve until their death or retirement.


Because of their lifelong appointments, Supreme Court justices have a great deal of power.

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States, and the state courts must follow any decisions they make.

They never have to face re-election, and they don't have to make sure that their decisions please the Senate or the president who appointed them.


The president contacts many sources for nominee recommendations, including the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, members of Congress, sitting judges and justices, and the American Bar Association. Some judicial hopefuls nominate themselves.


Once someone is nominated and his or her name is released to the public, the Senate holds public hearings. They interview the nominee regarding his or her record as a judge and lawyer and where the candidate stands on key issues as well as examine any indiscretions.


The Senate votes on the nominee. If there is a simple majority in favor of the candidate, he or she becomes the new justice.


The newly appointed justice takes two oaths. The first is the judicial oath administered by the chief justice in the presence of other members of the Court. The second is administered in open court.


The average justice serves for 14 years and retires at the age of 71.

Think it Through 1. What do you think are the most important qualities a chief justice should vave? 2. Do you agree with the current appointment process? 3. What would you change?

AMER I CA’ S LEGACY PRESENTED BY STUDENT GOVERNMENTAL AFFA I RS PROGRAM | 17 STUDENT GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS PROGRAM | SGAP.org | https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/executive-branch; https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/cabinet; http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm; http://www.house.gov/representa- tives; https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/barackobama; http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0777009.

❝ The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states.


The Declaration of Independence O n July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was unanimously approved and officially adopted by representatives of the 13 colonies to the Continental Congress. A MONTH EARLIER, in the third session of the Second Continental Congress, Richard Henry Lee proposed and John Adams seconded a resolution declaring the United Colonies free and independent states. A committee was appointed to draft a statement to the world presenting the colonies’ case for independence from Great Britain. The committee consisted of John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Thomas Jefferson. Except for minor alterations by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, this significant piece of our history was drafted initially by Thomas Jefferson.


absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

™ He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

™ He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. ™ He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. ™ He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. ™ He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. ™ He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion fromwithout, and convulsions within. ™ He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands. ™ He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers. ™ He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

 Original Text of Declaration of Independence:

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776 The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America. When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected themwith another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers form the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under


The painting “Declaration Of Independence,” by John Trumbull, depicts the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. (L to R) Pictured are John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

™ He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. ™ He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. ™ He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature. ™ He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power. ™ He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies: ™ For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments: ™ For suspending our own legislature, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. ™ He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us. ™ He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. ™ He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation. ™ He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands. ™ He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

™ For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

™ For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

™ For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:


™ For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

™ For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

™ For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring


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