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America Now,




America Then

This government was created on a document called the Articles of Confederation.

On March 1, 1781, men from all across 13 colonies came together for one purpose. They wanted to create a government for their new country. This government was weak so that nobody could have too much power. The separate colonies became states, and kept most of their power.

They could only declare war, sign peace treaties, and appoint men to government positions.

The Articles of Confederation called for one house in the national government. It was to be called Congress. States could send as many representatives as they want, but each state only had one vote. In order to make a law, 9 out of the 13 states had to vote “yes”.


Can a government with no money do its jobs?


Congress also had no way to tax the people. Without taxes, Congress had no money to wage war or help the people of America.


In order to amend the Articles, all 13 states had to vote “yes”!

The government created by the Articles of Confederation was not working. The founding fathers wanted a weak government, but this one was too weak! So, they came up with a new plan. Their new document would be called the Constitution of the United States of America. Under the Constitution, the national government would be divided into three branches; the Executive Branch, the Judicial Branch, and the Legislative Branch.


The Articles only allowed one branch of government; why would the Constitution call for 3?

The Executive Branch’s job is to enforce the laws made by congress. The head of the Executive Branch is the President, followed by the vice president, and then the President’s Cabinet. The president is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces. The Vice President’s job is to support the President. The cabinet’s job is to give the President and Vice President advice.

Under the Articles of Confederation, everyone was equal. With the Constitution, we have a President. Would it work to have a country with no clear leader?



The President and Vice President both serve 4-year terms. People from all 50 states vote for them.

The Legislative Branch’s two houses allow states of all sizes and beliefs be heard, so it represents the American people. Legislators from both houses are voted for by the people living in their state.

The Legislative Branch is in charge of making laws. Their job is to make laws that will make our lives better. They can also declare war and approve treaties. There are two houses in the Legislative Branch: The House of Representatives, and the Senate.

In the House of Representatives, 435 men and women come from all 50 states. This house allows the majority to have their voices heard.




The state’s population determines how many representatives they send. For example, Wyoming has a small population, so they get 1 Representative. California has a very large population, so they have 53 representatives.


 Members of the House of Representatives serve 2-year terms.



The Senate is a lot like the Congress formed under the Articles of Confederation. Each state is allowed to have the same number of votes.

The Senate is made up of 100 men and women. Each state is allowed to send two people no matter their population. In this house, each state gets an equal say on America's issues.



Members of Congress serve 6-year terms.


There was no Judicial Branch under the Articles of Confederation. How would early Americans be able to settle disputes or decide if new laws were constitutional?

The Judicial Branch’s job is to evaluate laws and the Constitution. This branch is made up of  judgesThese judges, or Justices, make up the Supreme Court. The Supreme court decides if laws are constitutional. They also help to settle disputes between people in America.


Each judge is appointed by a president, then approved by the Senate. They all serve a life-long term.

Together, the three branches make up our national government. Each branch has its own job to do, but they also work together. We call this checks and balances. All three branches have equal power, and none of them are able to become stronger than the others.




The U.S. Constitution is the longest standing Constitution today!


The Founding Fathers created the Articles of Confederation because they were afraid of a government that was too strong and would become a monarchy or dictatorship. The Constitution proved that we can have a strong government, but still be free Americans!

Amend: to change and improve


Checks and Balances: a system in which the different parts of an organization (such as a government) have powers that affect and control the other parts so that no part can become too powerful


Commander-in-Chief: a person who is in charge of all the armed forces of an entire country


Congress: the group of people who are responsible for making the laws of a country in some kinds of government


Constitutional: allowed by a country's constitution


Evaluate: to judge the value or condition of (someone or something) in a careful and thoughtful way


Founding Fathers: a man who had an important part in creating the government of the U.S.

Judges:a person who has the power to make decisions on cases brought before a court of law


Majority: the group or party that is the greater part of a large group


Tax: an amount of money that a government requires people to pay


Treaty: an official agreement that is made between two or more countries or groups



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