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Constitution of the United States

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The Constitution which emerged from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 has become the longest lived national constitution in the world. Constructed in response to the perceived weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, the constitution established a republican form of government with three branches. Each branch was designed to have powers that would limit the others. The legislative branch makes laws and provides taxation but the executive branch puts them into effect and the judicial branch interprets them. The Supreme Court decision in the Marbury v. Madison case in 1803 established the court's final power to decide the constitutionality of even acts of Congress.

Amendments have been made for a variety of reasons. The first ten were enacted to create a Bill of Rights. Later amendments abolished slavery and gave women the right to vote. For the last hundred years, most crucial changes to the working constitution have come about by Supreme Court decisions rather than amendments.