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The Constitution of the United States of America
The Constitution of the USA is the highest law of the USA. The Constitution gives all government powers, and also provides important limits on the government that protects the basic rights of United States citizens.
Why a Constitution?
The government needed to outline what the main government had power to control and what each state government had power to control. A meeting was created where 12 of the 13 states attended. Each state sent a person who quickly began work on writing a new Constitution for the USA.
The Constitutional Meeting
A main aim of the Constitution was to create a government with enough power to act on a national level, but without so much power that basic rights would be at risk. One way that this was completed was to separate the power of government into three divisions, and then to include checks and balances on those powers to assure that no one branch of government gained too much power over the others.
The process to approve the Constitution allowed for a lot of arguing in the states. The Constitution would take effect once it had been approved by nine of the thirteen state governments. The Constitution was approved after a lot of arguing and became official on March 9, 1789.
The Bill of Rights
Once the Constitution was approved a document that gave every man and women of the USA equal rights was written. Ten points were created in this Bill of Rights. The most important are:
- The First Amendment Freedom of Speech and freedom of religion.
- The Fifth Amendment Right to a fair trial.
- The Ninth Amendment USA people can keep all rights not included in the Bill of Rights.
Elections and Voting
One of the most important rights of American citizens is the right to vote. First, only white male citizens over the age of 21 were allowed to vote. This wrong was fixed and voting rights have been extended several times over the course of the history of the USA. Today, all citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote. However, citizens must register to vote, and laws regarding the registration process are different for each state.
The path to full voting rights for all American citizens was long and often challenging. Voting was first given to African Americans under the 14th and 15th changes to the Constitution. These guaranteed that all male citizens would be allowed to vote.
This was not the end of the voting rights struggle for African Americans though. In some states African Americans still could not vote. African Americans were not given full voting rights until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Women were not allowed to vote until 1920, when the 19th Amendment was passed.
Government elections occur every two years. Every member of the House of Representatives and about one-third of the Senate are up for reelection. A presidential election is held every fourth year.
National American Holidays
American Federal Holidays
People in every culture have holidays. Although the word “holiday” means “holy day,” most American holidays are not religious, but in memory of an event. Because the nation is made up of many different nationalities it is possible to trace some of the American holidays to many different cultural sources and traditions, but all holidays have taken on an American flavor. In the United States, the word “holiday” can also mean “celebration”!
National government offices, including the post office, are always closed on all national legal holidays. Schools and businesses close on major holidays like Independence Day and Christmas.
The national government announces ten holidays per year.
- New Year’s Day – January 1st
- Martin Luther King Day – January 15
- President’s Day – 3rd Monday of February
- Memorial Day – Last Monday in May
- Independence Day – July 4
- Labor Day – 1st Monday en September
- Columbus Day – 2nd Monday in October
- Veterans’ Day – November 11
- Thanksgiving – 4th Thursday in November
- Christmas Day – December 25