American government is founded on the principles of democracy. The United States was not always the grand and mighty country it is today. In fact, it started as a colony (or territory) of Great Britain. Great Britain's king and government imposed laws and violated the right of the colonists. Which is why on July 4, 1776, Americans declared independence from Great Britain. Our Founders wrote a document called the, "Declaration of Independence," which declared our independence from Great Britain and gives everyone the rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Gaining freedom from Great Britain wasn't the only challenge. The Founding Fathers also had to create a document that governed the people and made sure no one would ever violate our rights. This document that governs is called the Constitution. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. All other laws come from the Constitution. The Constitution says how the government should work. The Constitution does three things:
1. Sets up the government
2. Defines the government
3. Protects the basic rights of Americans
The Constitution ultimately sets up a government for the people and by the people. This idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution which are, "We are the People." The Constitution establishes the supremacy law or, "rule of law, which means that EVERYONE including leaders and government must obey the law. No one is above the law. No one.
The writers of the Constitution knew their creation was not perfect and that at later times, other people would have good ideas for the Constitution. They also knew times would change and new laws need to be made or changed. This is why they added the amendment process. An amendment is either a change or and addition to the Constitution. It is not easy to change the Constitution. Even though, over 9,000 amendments have been proposed, only twenty-seven (27) have been approved. The first ten (10) are called the "Bill of Rights". A Bill of Rights is a list of rights that belong to people and that the government cannot break. The First Amendment grants Americans five basic rights or freedoms which are:
5. Petition the Government
Americans are also free to buy and sell things from whomever they want. Government cannot force prices on goods or services. For example, the government cannot pass a law saying all apples should cost $1 or force people to buy apples. This type of economy is called a capitalist or market economy.