The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. The first three Articles of the Constitution establish the rules and separate powers of the three branches of the federal government: a legislature, the bicameral Congress; an executive branch led by the President; and a federal judiciary headed by the Supreme Court. The last four Articles frame the principle of federalism. The Tenth Amendment confirms its federal characteristics.
The Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified by conventions in eleven states. It went into effect on March 4, 1789. The first ten constitutional amendments ratified by three-fourths of the states in 1791 are known as the Bill of Rights. The Constitution has been amended seventeen additional times (for a total of 27 amendments) and its principles are applied in courts of law by judicial review.
The Constitution guides American law and political culture. Its writers composed the first constitution of its kind incorporating recent developments in constitutional theory with multiple traditions, and their work influenced later writers of national constitutions. It has been amended over time and it is supplemented and interpreted by a large body of United States constitutional law. Recent impulses for reform center on concerns for extending democracy and balancing the federal budget.
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