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Constitution Introduction

In a Nutshell

The Constitution of the United States is the highest law in the land, a written statement of the core principles of the American government. It lays out the structure of the federal government, clarifies the relationship between that government and the states, explains which powers the government does (and does not!) have, and guarantees certain rights and freedoms to the people.

The Constitution is, in short, the blueprint for America's democracy. It is, in many ways, the blueprint for America itself.

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Why Should I Care?

Four handwritten pages.

That's all they produced, after 116 days of hard work. That's right, it took 55 men—55 of America's most intelligent, powerful, and influential men—an entire summer to put together a document about as long as most freshman English papers.

Not too impressive, you might think.

But you'd be wrong. Because those four handwritten pages contained the Constitution of the United States. For more than 220 years now, those four handwritten pages have organized our government, protected our freedoms, perhaps even defined us as a people.

Today the handwriting has faded badly, and the parchment itself is in danger of disintegrating into dust. But the ideas contained in that centuries-old document—the core ideas of American democracy—are as vital today as they were the day they were written down during that hot Philadelphia summer of 1787 The Constitution remains a living document—exactly as its authors intended it to be.

But it can only stay alive as long as We the People continue to take it seriously—as long as We the People understand its principles and force our own leaders to follow them. The Constitution belongs to all of us.

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