Constitution of the United States

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What are the main points of the US Constitution?

The main points of the US Constitution, according to the National Archives and Records Administration, are popular sovereignty, republicanism, limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism.

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According to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), there are six main points of the US Constitution, referred to as the “Six Big Ideas.” They include the following.

Popular sovereignty means that the people are sovereign or ultimately that the government represents the people. This means that the government has authority because the people grant it authority. The Constitution begins with “We the People.” By exercising the right to elect representatives and doing their civic duty by voting, the people are the source of government power.

Related to this is republicanism, which is a model of government that emphasizes that the people—or citizens—participate in order to advance the common good of the republic. This means that people have an obligation to fulfill their civic duty.

Because the US government exists because the people give it power, there is a limited government. The government's powers are limited to those powers the people determine and authorize it to have. The government is not omnipotent. The Constitution outlines the areas over which the government has authority.

Another of the six main ideas is that of separation of powers, which means that the Constitution outlines three main branches of government—the legislative, executive and judicial branches—and allocates various powers among them.

Moreover, through a system of checks and balances, another of the six main points in the Constitution, each of the three branches of government has several constitutional checks to oversee the operations of the other two branches in order to ensure the overall balance of power.

Federalism refers to the division of power of a centralized government and various local governments that are located closer to and presumably better understand the people they serve. This gives local government certain authority to self-govern.

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There are several main points of the Constitution. One main point was to create a better plan of government than the plan created by the Articles of Confederation. There were many weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution addresses most of them.

Another main point of the Constitution was to create different branches of government that had different responsibilities. The legislative branch makes the laws. The executive branch carries out the laws. The judicial branch interprets the laws. The plan of government developed by the Constitution also wanted to prevent any branch from becoming too powerful. Thus, it created a system of checks and balances that allowed the branches to be able to control each other.

The Constitution also spelled out powers that belonged only to the federal government. These enumerated powers include the ability to print money and control interstate and foreign trade. There are powers that only belong to the state governments. These reserved powers include dealing with education within the state and punishments for violating state laws. There are also powers shared by the both the state governments and the federal government. These concurrent powers include the power to levy taxes and build roads. This is known as the system of federalism.

Another main point of the Constitution is to establish a hierarchy of power in our country. The laws of the federal government are supreme. State laws can’t go against or undo federal laws.

The Constitution also outlines methods to change the Constitution. While there are two methods to bring about changes, or amendments, to the constitution, only one method has been used in all 27 amendments. This method is where two-thirds of both houses of Congress propose a change and three-fourths of the state legislatures accept the change.

Finally, another main point of the Constitution is that the government is based on a contract with the people. The power of the federal government is limited. The federal government must protect the rights of the people.

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The U.S. Constitution was written having seven main articles and additional amendments added from the end of the 1700s through current times. 

The original seven articles address these points:

1. Define the powers of the Congress, House of Representatives and Senate.

2. Establish and define the presidency.

3. Establish and define the court system.

4. Define states' laws.

5. Explain Constitutional Amendment processes.

6. Define the Constitution as the highest law in the country.

7. Explain what it would take to ratify the original document: nine of the 13 colonies had to agree to it. 

The rest of the Constitution is created by the amendments. The first ten of those are named the Bill of Rights. These establish the individual liberties and freedoms we know today, such as freedom of speech and religion, the right to bear arms and the rights a person has under the judicial system. Further amendments were added as needed that address topics such as slavery, taxes, voting and how government office terms work.

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There are a number of main points to the US Constitution.  While different lists of such main points may include different things, the following five things are very important.

  • Popular government.  The Constitution guarantees us the right to elect the people who make up our government.  Over the years, this right has expanded to where we now get to elect the president and all of Congress and to where various groups can vote even though they could not do so previously.
  • Separation of powers.  The government is divided into three parts (branches) with different powers for each part.
  • Checks and balances.  Each of the branches of government has the ability to check the other branches.  For example, even though the legislature has the right to make laws, the president may veto those laws.
  • Federalism.  The powers of the government are split between the federal government and the state governements.
  • Limited government.  The government is meant to have a hard time taking away people’s rights.  This is partly accomplished through separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism.  It is also accomplished through specific protections such as are found in the Bill of Rights.
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