American Constitution at Working Preamble

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We citizens of the United States adopt this constitution because we want to

  1. Form a better union of our states than we had under the Articles of Confederation.
  2. Give fair treatment to everybody.
  3. Secure peace in all our states.
  4. Defend yourselves and our country against any enemies.
  5. Enjoy good living conditions.
  6. Possess liberty for ourselves and for future generations of Americans.

1. Article Legislative Branch Congress

Text

Sec. I All legislative powers herçin granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate, and House of Representatives.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Comments

Laws for the United States are made by Congress. Congress is made up of two houses” a Senate’ and House of Representative.

2. Composition of the House

Text

Sec 2, Para 1. The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.

Comments

Representatives have two-years terms and are elected by the voters of each state. Citizens who are allowed to vote for state representatives are also qualified to vote for a representative in the national House of Representatives. This section recognizes the right of each state to make laws about voting. Several amendments have extended voting rights.

3. Qualifications of Representatives

Text

Sec. 2 Para 2. No person shall be a representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty-five years and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

Comments

A representative must be at least twenty-five years old, a United States citizen for at least seven years, and a resident of the state from which he or she has been elected. The Constitution does not require a representative to live in the district that he or she serves, but custom does.

4. Basis of Representative

Text

Sec. 2, Para 3. Representatives (and direct taxes) shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, (which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons). The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner, as they shall by law direct. The number of representatives shall not exceed 1 for every 30,000 but each state shall have at least 1 representative ; land until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose 3, Massachusetts, 8; Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, 1 ; Connecticut, 5 ; New York, 6 ; New Jersey, 4; Pennsylvania, 8 ; Delaware, one ; Maryland, 6 ; Virginia, 10 ; North Carolina, five ; South Carolina, 5; and Georgia.

Comments

This paragraph is part of the Great Compromise made at the Constitutional Convention. It provided that the number of representatives a state has and the amount of direct taxes the state, pays would be based on the number of people in the state. Each slave was to be counted as three-fifths of a free person; untaxed Indians were not to be counted at all. Since the abolition of slavery and property qualifications for voting; all Americans are counted in the same way. Provisions for direct taxes were changed by the Sixteenth Amendment. Besides requiring a census every ten years, this section requires Congress to decide how the count shall be made and the number of representatives from each state, except that the number of people may not be fewer than 30,000 for each representative. Each state has at least one representative even if its population is less than 30,000. Congress later set the total number of representatives at 435. By 1970, each member of the House represented about 465,000 persons.

5. Filling Vacancies

Text

Sec. 2 Para 4, When vacancies happen in the representation from any state, the exclusive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.

Comments

If a state does not have its full number of representatives, the governor of the state is supposed to call an election to fill any vacancy. 7. Organizing the House-Impeachment.

Text

Sec. 2, Para. 5. The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.

Comments

The House of Representatives selects its speaker (presiding officer) and other officers. The speaker has always been a member of the House. The House of Representatives alone has the power to impeach, to sit as a grand jury and decide whether or not high executives and judicial officers shall be tried for misbehavior in office.

6. Composition of the Senate

Text

Sec. 3, Para I. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six years and each senator shall have one vote.

Comments

The Senate is made up of two senators from each state. Up until 1913, senators were chosen by the state legislatures; the seventeenth Amendment changed this provision. Each senator is elected for a six-year term and has one vote in the Senate.

7. Choosing Senators

Text

Sec. 3, Para 2. [Immediately after they shall be divided as equally as may be into three classes. The seats of the senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the second year, of the second class at the expiration of the fourth year, and of the third class at the expiration of the sixth year, so that one third may be chosen every second year; and] if vacancies happen by resignation, or otherwise, (during the recess of the legislature of any state), the executive thereof may make temporary appointment (until the next meeting of the legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies).

Comments

The terms of senators in the first Congress were arranged so that one-third of the senators would be elected every two years. When a vacancy appears, the governor of the state arranges to hold an election, but if state laws permit, the governor may appoint a temporary senator.

8. Qualification of Senators

Text

Sec. 3, Para. 3. No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years and been nine years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.

Comments

A senator must be at least thirty years old, a United States citizen for at least nine years, and a resident of the state that he or she represents.

9. Officers of the Senate

Text

Sec. 3, Para 4. The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate but shall have no vote, unless they are equally divided.

Sec. 3, Para 5. The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a president pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice-President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.

Comments

The Vice President presides at Senate meetings but votes only when there is a tie.
The Senate chooses its other officers and may select a presiding officer to serve when the Vice-President is absent.

10. Impeachment Trials

Text

Sec. 3, Para. 6 _The senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on an oath or affirmation. When the president of the United States is tried, the Chief justice shall preside. And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present.

Sec. 3, Para. 7 – Judgment in case of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial judgment and punishment, according to law.

Comments

The Senate is given the power to try officials who are impeached by the House of Representatives. The Senators must take on oath to try the case fairly. If the President is tried, the Chief justice presides over the senate at the trial, but in other cases, the Vice-President Presides. To convict an official, two-thirds of the senators present must vote guilty.

The penalty for the convicted official shall not be more than the loss of office and of the right ever to hold another United States government office. But he or she may still be tried in the regular courts for any crimes that caused the loss of office and be punished if found guilty.

11. Congressional Elections

Text

Sec. 4, Para 1. The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing senators.

Comments

The States may make laws about when, where and how elections for senators and representatives are held. But Congress may change the state laws. Congress, for example, has fixed the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even-numbered years as the date for the election of senators and representatives. Representatives must be elected from districts by secret ballot. Senators are now elected at the same voting places as other officials.

12. Meetings of Congress

Text

Sec. 4, Para 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, (and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December unless they shall by law appoint a different day).

Comments

Congress must meet at least once a year. The date of the regular meeting is now fixed by the Twentieth Amendment at January 3.

13. Qualifications – Quorum

Text

Sec. 5, Para. 1. Each house shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business ; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day and maybe authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each house may provide.

Comments

The House of Representatives and the Senate each may decide if its own members are entitled to be in Congress. Both have kept out members who met the qualifications of the Constitution but who were thought by more than half the House or Senate to be undesirable persons. Neither House or Senate can hold meetings for business unless more than half the members are present, but the absence of a quorum often is not noticed. The Senate and the House of Representatives can each make rules and fix penalties for not attending meetings.

14. Rules

Text

Sec. 5, Para 2. — Each house may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behaviour, and with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.

Comments

The House and the Senate may each make its own rules of conducting its business and may punish its own members for not following these rules. In either the House or the Senate, two-thirds of the members present must agree if they wish to expel a member. In practice, it has been easier to keep a member out of Congress than to put one out.

15. Journal

Text

Sec. 5, Para 3. – Each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the years and ways of the members of either house on any question shall, at the desire of one-fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

Comments

The House of Representatives and the Senate must each keep a record of what is done at its meetings. Not only are proceeding recorded, but most of what is said and much that is not said is printed unless the members decide to keep some matters secret. If one-fifth of the member’s present wish, the record must show how each member voted on any question.

16. Adjournment

Text

Sec. 5, Para, 4. — Neither house during the session of Congress, shall without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two houses shall be sitting.

Comments

While Congress is meeting, neither the House nor the Senate shall let three days pass without holding a meeting, unless the other agrees. Both must meet in the same city.

17. Congressional Privileges

Text

Sec. 6, Para, 1. The senators and representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either house, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

Comments

Senators and representatives shall be paid out of the United States treasury according to the law that fixes their salaries (now $42,500 a year).

Members of Congress, attending meetings of Congress, or going to and from meetings, shall not be arrested except for treason, serious crime, or breaking the peace. This protects them from interference in doing their duty. They cannot be held from interference in doing their duty. They cannot be held responsible for anything they say in their meetings, no matter how criminal it may be, except by the house to which they belong.

18. Congressional Restrictions

Text

Sec. 6, Para 2. No senator or representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the employments whereof shall have been increased during such time and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either house during his continuance in office.

Comments

Senators and representatives cannot hold other United States government office while they are members of Congress. During the time for which they have been elected, they cannot take any government position, that has been created during that time nor any position for which the salary has been increased during that time.

19. Origin Of Money Bills

Text

Sec. 7, Para. 1 – All bills raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.

Comments

Only members of the House of Representatives may propose bills that levy taxes. But the Senate may amend such bills and always does. In fact, the Senate often substitutes an entirely different bill.

20. Overriding a President’s Veto

Text

Sec. 7, Para 2. Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the President of the United States, if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that house in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two-thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other house, by which it shall become a law. But in all such cases, the votes of both houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each house respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.

Comments

A bill that has passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate shall be sent to the President. If the President signs, it, the bill becomes law. If the President does do not approve the bill, he or she sends it back, without signing it, the house that first passed it. The President has to give reasons for not approving it, and these reasons must be put in the record of proceedings. The members of that house must vote on the bill again. If two-thirds of the members present agree to pass the bill, it is sent, together with the President’s objections, to the other house. If two-third of that house favor the bill, it becomes a law without the president’s approval. The records of Congress must show how each member voted.

The President has ten days, not counting Sundays, after receiving a bill to consider it. If he or she keeps it longer, it becomes a law without being signed. But if Congress has adjourned, the unsigned bill does not become a law. (This is called the “Pocket” veto.)

21. Need for President’s Consent

Text

Sec. 7, Para, 3. Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the President of United States ; and before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.

Comments

This clause prevents Congress from making laws without the consent of the President. If either the House of Representatives or the Senate takes action that needs a mutual agreement, the matter must be sent to the president for approval. If the President agrees, it takes effect. If the President does not agree, both houses must pass the measure again by a two-thirds vote before it takes effect.

22. Powers of Congress – Taxing

Text

Sec. 8, Para 1. –The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties imports, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.

Comments

Congress has the power to get money by taxing. Such income can be used

  1. to pay debts of the national government
  2. to defend the country
  3. to provide services for the good of all the people

All national taxes in the form of import duties or excise taxes must be the same in all parts of the country.

23. Borrowing Money

Texts

Sec. 8, Para. 2–To borrow money on the credit of the United States.

Comments

Congress has the power to borrow money for the government to use. These in no constitutional limit to the amount.

24. Regulating Commerce

Text

Sec. 8, Para 3.–To regulate Commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.

Comments

Congress has the power to make laws to control trade, transportation, communication and related transactions with other countries, among the states and with the Indian tribes.

25. Naturalization Bankruptcies

Text

Sec. 8, Para 4.–To establish a uniform rule of naturalization and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States.

Comments

Congress has the power to say how people born in other countries can become citizens of the United States. Congress has the power to set up a national bankruptcy law.

26. Money – Weights and Measures

Texts

Sec. 8, Para 5.–To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures.

Comments

Congress has the power to coin money and say how much it is worth and to put a value on foreign money. Combined with the power to borrow money this power enables Congress to issue paper money and make it legal in payment of all debts. Congress has the power to define weights and measurements so that they will be the same throughout the nation.

27. Punishing Counterfeits

Texts

Sec. 8. Para 6. — To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coins of the United States.

Comments

Congress has the power to make laws to punish persons who make imitation government bonds, stamps, or money.

28. Postal Services

Texts

Sec. 8, Para 7. – To establish post offices and post roads.

Comments

Congress has the power to provide post offices and roads.

29. Copyrights and Patents

Texts

Sec. 8, Para 8. – To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

Comments

Congress has the power to keep science, inventors, writers and artists may receive patent and copyrights on their work.

30. Lower Courts

Texts

Sec. 8, Para 9 .– To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court.

Comments

Congress has the power to set up national courts that are lower in authority than the Supreme Court of the United States.

31. Piracy – International Law

Texts

Sec. 8, Para 10 – To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offense against the law of nations.

Comments

Congress has the power to make laws about crimes committed on the seas and oceans. Congress also has the power to make laws to punish those who break laws that are recognized by all nations (international law.

32. Declaring War

Texts

Sec. 8, Para 11. – To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.

Comments

Congress has the power to declare war, to permit persons to capture or destroy ships and goods of enemy nations without being guilty of piracy (this power given up in 1856) and to make rules about seizing enemy property on land or sea.

33. Military Forces

Texts

Sec. 8, Para 12. — to raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer-term than two years.

Sec. 8, Para. 13 – To provide and maintain a navy. Sec. 8, Para. – 14 – To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.

Comments

Congress has the power to raise armed forces, and supply them by any means and to any extent necessary. But Congress may not provide money for the army for more than two years at a time. No time limit was put on appropriations for the navy because the navy was not considered as dangerous to liberty as a permanent army. Congress also has the power to make rules for the organization and control of the armed services.

34. The Militia

Texts

Sec. 8, Para. 15. — To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.

Sec. 8, Para 16. — To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

Comments

Congress has the power to call out able-bodied Americans organized as militia to:

  1. enforce the national laws,
  2. put down the rebellion,
  3. drive out invading enemies.

Congress has the power to provide ways and means for states to have civilian soldiers and to make rules for using these soldiers for the whole country. But the states have the right to select the officers of the militia and to see that the militia is trained according to rules made by Congress. The organized militia is the national guard.

35. The Federal District

Text

Sec. 8, Para 17. — to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and the exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings.

Comments

Congress has the power to make all laws for the District of Columbia, which includes the national capital (Washington, D.C.). Congress governs all places bought from the states for use as forts, arsenals, navy yards, and public buildings.

36. The Elastic Clause

Texts

Sec. 8, Pàra 18 — And to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

Comments

This paragraph — the “clastic clause” — is basic to a broad interpretation of the Constitution. It gives Congress power to make any laws that may be needed to carry out the specific powers granted in the first seventeen paragraphs of section 8 and in the rest of the constitution. It does not, however, give Congress the power to do whatever it chooses. Congress must act within the framework of the specified powers.

37. Slave Trade

Text

Sec. 9, Para. 1 – The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but i inn ur duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

Comments

Congress could not prohibit the bringing in of slaves before 1808. It could, however, levy a tax as high as $ 10 on each one brought in.

38. Habeas Corpus

Text

Sec. 9, Para. 2. – The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public Safety may require it.

Comments

Only when the country is in danger from rebellion or invasion can Congress stop the courts from issuing paper called “writs of habeas corpus.” A writ of habeas corpus forces a jailer or other person to bring a prisoner into court so that the prisoner can have a judge decide if he or she is being held lawfully.

39. Bill of Attainder — Ex Post Facto

Text

Sec. 9, Para 3 — No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.

Comments

Congress cannot pass a law convicting or punishing a particular person. Congress cannot pass a law that makes unlawful something that was not illegal at the time it was done.

40. Direct Taxes

Texts

Sec. 9, Para 4. — No capitation, (for other direct,) tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

Comments

Congress cannot levy “head” taxes or poll taxes unless all persons (men, women, and children in the United States are taxed the same. Other direct taxes (except on incomes, according to the Sixteenth Amendment) also must be based on population instead of value, size, or any other factor.

41. Prohibition of Export Duties

Texts

Sec. 9, Para 5. — No tax shall be laid on articles exported from any state.

Comments

Congress cannot tax goods or products for being sent out of any state.

42. Equal Treatment to All States

Texts

Sec. 9, Para 6. No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or Revenue to the ports of one state over those of aħother nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.

Comments

Congress cannot make any laws that favor one state or one city more than another in matters of trade or commerce. Ships from any state may enter the ports of any other state without paying charges.

43. Care of Public Money

Text

Sec. 9, Para. 7. No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by-laws and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

Comments

Government money can be spent only if Congress passes a bill for that purpose. An account of money taken in and spent must be made public.

44. Titles of Nobility

Texts

Sec. 9, Para 8. No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.

Comments

The United States government cannot give a noble title (such as count, duchess Earl) to anyone. No one in the service of the United States can accept a title, a present, or position from another country without the permission of Congress. This prevents foreign governments from corrupting our officials.

45. Prohibitions on the States

Text

Sec. 10, Para. 1 — No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque, and reprisals; coin money; imit biils of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex-post-facto law, or law impairing. the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.

Comments

States cannot make treaties with foreign countries. States cannot give private citizens permission to fight other countries. States cannot coin their own money or issue paper money. States cannot pass laws that allow materials other than gold and silver to be used as money. States cannot pass laws declaring a particular person guilty of a stated offense and describing the punishment. States cannot pass laws that would punish a person for something that was not against the law when it was done. States cannot pass laws that accuse people from carrying out lawful agreements. States cannot give titles of nobility.

Text

Sec. 10, Para 2. No State shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws; and the net produce of all duties and imports, laid by any state on imports and exports, shall be the use of the treasury of the United States ; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.

Text

Sec. 10. Para. 3. No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.

Comments

States cannot tax goods entering or leaving a state unless. Congress agrees. But states may charge an inspection fee if necessary. Any profit from state import or export taxes approved by Congress must go into the United States treasury, and these state tax laws may be changed by Congress. Unless Congress provides otherwise, states may not tax ships, or keep troops (except civilian soldiers – militia) or warships in time of peace. States cannot make alliances with other states or with foreign countries unless Congress agrees. States cannot go to war without the consent of Congress unless they have been invaded or are in such great danger that delay would be disastrous.

Article 2 – Executive Branch

1. Presidency

Text

Sec. 1. Para 1. The Executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and together with the Vice-President, chosen for the same term, be elected as follows.

Comments

The leaders and manager of the national government is the President, who has a four-year term of office. The Vice-President is elected to the same term of office.

2. Electoral College

Text

Sec. 1, Para 2. Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be) entitled in the Congress ; but no senator or representative or persons holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed as elector.

Comments

The president is elected by electors chosen by each state in the way the state legislature decides. Each state chosen as many electors as it has representatives and senators. No senator or representative in Congress or anyone holding a national government position may be an elector.

3. Original Election Method

Texts

Sec. 1, Para 3. The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the Persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify and transmit sealed to the seat of government of United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if there be more than one who have such a majority and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President ; and if no person has a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said house shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representative from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the Person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice-President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice-President.

Comments

This paragraph was changed by the Twelfth Amendment. See that amendment to find out how electors now choose the President and Vice President.

4. Date of Elections

Text

Sec. 1, Para. 4 The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.

Comments

Congress has the power to set the day for choosing the electors and the day when the electors vote. The date set for choosing electors, Election Day, is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every fourth year. The President is not actually elected until the electors cast their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.

5. Qualification for President

Text

Sec. 1, Para 5. No person except a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President ; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty – five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.

Comments

To be President, a person must have been born in the United States or been born of a parent who were citizens of the United States at the time of the birth. Such a person must be at least thirty-five years old and must have lived in the United States at least fourteen years. (Foreign-born persons who were citizens at the time the constitution was adopted were also eligible to be President.)

6. Succession to the Presidency

Text

Sec. 1, Para 6. (In case of the removal of the President from office, of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the VicePresident, and the Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death resignation or inability, both of the President and Vice-President declaring what officer shall then act as President and such office shall then act as President declaring what officer shall act as President, and such officer shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

Comments

This part has been changed by the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

7. Salary

Text

Sec. 1, Para. 7. The President shall, at stated times, receive for his services, a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor disminished during the period for which he shall bave been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Comments

The President is paid a salary, which cannot be raised or lowered during the term of office. While in office, the President cannot receive any other salary from the national government or from any state. The salary is now $ 200,000 a year.

8. Oath of Office

Text

Before he enters or the execution of his office, be shall take the following oath or affirmation. I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Comments

Before taking the office of President, the persons elected must promise to faithfully carry on the duties of the job and make sure that the Constitution is obeyed.

9. Military and Civil Powers

Texts

Sec. 2 Para. 1. The President shall be Commander-isiChief of the army, and navy of the United States, and of the militia of several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United State, except in cases of impeachment.

Comments

The President is the head of the country’s armed forces, including the state militia when it is called into national service. The President may ask for reports from the cabinet officers and other important leaders charged with executing the laws. The President may pardon or postpone the sentences of those convicted in the national courts but cannot interfere in cases of impeachment.

10. Treaty and Appointment Powers

Texts

Sec. 2, Para 2. He shall have power by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law, but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

Text

Sec. 2, Para 3. The President shall have Power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.

Comments

The President has the power to make treaties with other countries, but the Senate must approve the treaties by a two-thirds vote of those present. The President has the power to appoint persons to represent the United States in other countries, but the Senate must approve the choices by a simple majority vote. The President also has the power to appoint with the senate’s approval, the justices of the Supreme court and other government officials, unless the Constitution provides a different way.

Congress may pass laws giving the President, the Courts or heads of government departments the right to select people for certain government positions.

The president may appoint persons to fill vacancies that appear in the executing department when the Senate is not meeting. These appointments hold good until the end of the next meeting of the Senate.

11. Other Presidential Powers

Text

Sec, 3.-. He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the state of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient ; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper ; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers ; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.

Comments

The President informs Congress about the nation’s conditions (this is the state of the Union message the President gives at the beginning of each session of Congress). The President recommends the necessary laws and advises Congress about desirable changes in the government in emergencies the President calls meetings of the House of Representatives, the Senate, or both.

If the two houses of Congress disagree about ending their meetings, the President may end them. (This has not yet happened).

The President deals with representatives of other countries. It is the President’s duty to see that the laws of the country are followed.

The President must sign the papers that show the right of officers to hold their positions.

12. Impeachment

Texts

Sec, 4. The President, Vice-President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Comments

The President, Vice-President and other officers of the national government (except Congressmen and military officers) can be removed from office after being accused by the House of Representatives and then convicted by the Senate of treason (aiding the nation’s enemies), of taking bribes or committing other serious crimes.

Article 3. Judicial Branch

1. Courts and Judges

Texts

Sec. 1. The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Comments

The power to judge is given to the Supreme Court and to whatever lower courts Congress sets up. Judges of all national Courts hold office for life or until they are proved guilty of wrongful acts. They are paid a salary that cannot be lowered while they hold office.

2. Power of National Courts

Texts

Sec. 2, Para 1. The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity, arising under constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority – to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls ; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction ; to controversies between two or more states ; – (between a state and citizens of another state between citizens of different states, between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

Comments

The national courts settle disputes that have to do with the Constitution, with laws of the United States, with treaties, and with laws about ships and shipping. These Courts also settle disputes in which representatives of foreign countries, the national government or two or more state governments are interested.

National Courts may also settle disputes between people of different states, disputes in which people of the same state claim lands in other states, and disputes between a state or citizens of a state and a foreign country or citizens or a foreign country. The Eleventh Amendment took away the power of national courts to settle disputes between a state and citizens of another state.

3. Original and Appellate Jurisdiction

Texts

Sec. 2, Para 2. In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be a party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such Exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

Comments

If the representative of a foreign country is in the dispute, or if a state is in the dispute, the trial is heard directly by the Supreme Court. All other disputes are tried in a lower national court first. Decisions in such cases may be appealed to the Supreme Court. Congress has the power to make further rules about these cases.

4. Trial by jury

Texts

Sec. 2, Para 3. The trials of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.

Comments

With the exception of an impeached official, anyone accused of a crime against the national government has a right to a trial by jury. The trial is held in the state where the crime was committed. If the crime was not done in any state (for example, a crime done at sea), the trial is held in a place Congress has chosen by law.

5. Treason

Texts

Sec. 3. Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have the power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

Comments

Treason is defined as carrying on war against the United States. No one can be punished for treason unless he or she confesses in court or unless at least two witnesses testify that the accused person committed a treasonable act.

Congress has the power to set the punishment for treason. Congress cannot punish the family of a person guilty of treason for his or her crime.

Article 4 __ The States

1. Full Faith and Credit

Texts

Sec. 1. Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

Comments

All states must accept as legal and binding the law, records, and court decisions of other states. Congress has the power to make laws that say how these laws, records, and decisions must be presented for acceptance.

2. Privileges and immunities

Texts

Sec. 2, Para 1. The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.

Texts

Sec. 2, Para. 2. A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.

Text

Sec. 2 Para 3. No. person held to service of labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due.

Comments

A citizen from another state has the same rights as the citizens of the state where he or she happen to be.

Anyone accused of crime who is found in another state shall be sent back for trial, if the governor of the state where the crime was committed requests it. But there is no legal way to force a governor to return such a person.

Slaves did not became free by escaping to a free state, but had to be sent back to their owners.

3. New States

Text

Sec. 3, Para 1. New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union ; but no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state ; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

Comments

Congress has the right to add new states to the United States. No way is provided for a state to leave the Union.

No state can be divided to make another state without the consent of the original state and Congress. Two such states have been formed from existing states Maine from Massachusetts in 1820; and West Virginia from Virginia in 1863. The law admitting Taxes to the Union provided that it could later be divided into five states.

A new state cannot be made from parts of two or more states without the agreement of the legislature of the states and of Congress. None has been formed this way.

4. Territories

Text

Sec. 3, Para 2. The Congress shall have power to dispose and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.

Comments

Congress has the power to make rules about all government lands and property. The government of territories before they become states is determined by Congress.

5. Guarantees to the States

Texts

Sec. 4. The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on the application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened against domestic violence.

Comments

The national govern.aent must make sure that every state has a government in which the people rule and that each state is protected from invasion. Help must be sent to a state to put down riots if the state legislature asks it, or if the governor asks when the legislature is not meeting. The President can also send troops into a state without the request of the state officials if necessary to enforce national law and maintain peace.

Article 5 – Amending Procedures

Text

The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress ; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clause in the ninth section of the first Article ; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the senate.

Comments

The Constitution provides two ways of suggesting amendments to the constitution. One way is for two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House of Representatives to suggest amendments. The other way is for the legislatures of two-thirds of the states to ask Congress to call a meeting of specially elected persons to suggest amendments. Amendments proposed in either of these ways must then be ratified. They become a part of the Constitution, if legislatures of three-fourths of the states agree, or if three-fourths of the states have special meetings that agree to the amendments. Congress may decide which of these two ways of ratifying amendments is to be used.

No amendment could be made before 1808 that would stop the slave trade or allow direct taxes without distributing the burden according to the population of the states. No amendment can take away a state’s right to have the same number of senators as other states ; unless the particular state agrees to this change.

Article 6 — National Supremacy

Text

All debts contracted and engagement entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United State under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made or which shall be the supreme law of the land and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United State and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution, but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Comments

Promises the repay borrowed money and agreement made by Congress before the adoption of the Constitution shall be binding on the United States as they were before this Constitution was put into effect.

This Constitution, the laws made by Congress as permitted under this Constitution, and treaties made by the United States shall be the highest law of the United States. Judges must follow this law even if state laws Contradict it. This is the “supremacy clause.”

All national government and state government officials must promise to follow this Constitution.

Officials and employees of the national government cannot be required to take any kind of religious test in order to hold office.

Article 7 – Ratification

Text

The ratification of the Convention of nine states shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same. Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names.

Comments

When nine states have held meetings and agreed to this constitution, the government under the Constitution shall begin in the states that have agreed to it this method of changing the form of government differed from the existing Articles of Confederation, which required the consent of all thirteen states. Within a year, nine states had ratified the new Constitution.

The states represented in the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, agreed to the Constitution as a Plan of government to be proposed. Rhode Island had refused to take part in the convention, The other twelve states selected sixty-five men to go to the Convention; and fifty-five of them attended meetings. Forty-two were present the day the Constitution was signed, but only thirty-nine signed it.

Amendments to the Constitution

Amendment 1 (1791)

Religious and Political Freedom, Speech, Press, Assembly and Petition

Text

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Comments

Congress cannot pass law that makes any religion the official religion of the country, nor can it make laws that prevent people from following their own religion ; or laws that prevent people from speaking and printing what they wish (if it is not slanderous or seditious) ; or laws that prevent people from meeting peaceably so that they may ask the government to right any wrong.

Amendment 2 (1791)

Right to Bear Arms

Texts

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Comments

Because people have a right to protect themselves with armed citizens (militia), Congress cannot pass any laws that prevent people from keeping and carrying firearms for military purposes. Congress can and has restricted the possession of sawn-off shotguns and concealed weapons for private purposes.

Amendment 3 (1791)

Quartering of Soldiers

Texts

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Comments

In peace-time, citizens cannot be forced to give either room or board.to soldiers in their homes. In wartime, this may be done if Congress passes a law providing for it.

Amendment 4 (1791)

Search and Seizure

Texts

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Comments

A person’s house cannot be searched and his or her property or paper taken except in ways that are according to law. Courts cannot issue search warrants unless convinced there is good reason for doing so. Whoever asks for a search warrant must give the reasons and explain exactly where the search is to be made and what is to be taken. This amendment was intended to prevent the use of “writs of assistance”, which were general warrants used by the British chiefly to catch, smugglers.

Amendment 5 (1791)

Life, Liberty and Property

Text

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise, infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Comments

No only can be tried in a national court for a serious crime unless a grand jury makes an accusation. But this rule does not cover members of the armed forces in times of war or public danger.

No one who has been found innocent of committing a crime can be tried again for the same offense. But if the offence is a crime under state law, the person can be tried again in a state Court. Or if the offence hurts someone, the person can be made to pay for the damages.

No one can be forced to say anything in a national court that would help convict himself or herself of a crime. (This provision was intended to prevent the use of torture in extracting confessions).

The government cannot take a person’s life, freedom or property except in the exact ways laid down by law. The Fourteenth Amendment applies this rule to the states, too.

The government cannot take a person’s property without paying a fair price for it and then only if it is to be used for the benefit of everybody.

Amendment 6 (1791)

Rights of the Accused

Text

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by. an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Comments

A person accused of committing a crime must be given prompt trial in public. Guilt or innocence must be decided by a jury chosen from the state and the district where the crime was committed. The accused must be told what he or she is being tried for. The accused must be present when witnesses sneak in Court. The accused can have witnesses called to testify for him or her. The accused can have a lawyer to defend him or her. The amendment applies only to national courts, but the states follow nearly the same rules.

Amendment 7 (1791)

Rights of the Accused

Text

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy “shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise, re-examined by any court of the United States than according to the rules of the common law.

Comments

In disputes over property worth more than twenty dollars, either party to the dispute can insist on having a jury trial, or both can agree not to have a jury. After a jury’s decision, no question of fact can be brought up again in a higher court unless before a jury.

Amendment 8 (1791)

Bail And Punishment

Text

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fine imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Comments

People who are accused of crimes may be allowed out of jail on bail while they are awaiting trial. Bill is the sum of money or property that the accused person gives the court to hold as a guarantee that he or she will show up for the trial. The Eighth Amendment forbids the courts to require an unusually large bail.

Courts cannot fine persons too much for the crime done or punish convicts in cruel or unusual ways (such as branding with a hot iron). On June 29, 1972, in the case of “Funan V. Georgia”, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment.

Amendment 9 (1791)

All Other Rights

Text

The amendment in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Comments

The mention of certain rights in the Constitution does not mean that these are the only right that people have or does not make other rights less important. (These untamed rights probably meant those like “pursuit of happiness” — rights so vague that they cannot be legally defined.)

Amendment 10 (1791)

Rights of the States and the People

Text

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Comments

All powers not given by the Constitution to the national government, and all powers not denied to the states by the Constitution are kept by the states or by the people of the states. This guarantees states’ rights but not state supremacy.

This amendment and the other sine ratified in 1791 are called to Bill of Rights.

Amendment 11 (1798)

Suits Against a State

Text

The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.

Comments

Citizens of other states or of foreign countries cannot sue a state in the national courts.

Amendment 12 (1804)

Election of Executive

Text

The electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves ; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President and of all persons voted for as VicePresident, and of the number of votes for each, which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate ; The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted. The persons having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest number not exceeding, three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representations from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a number or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall develop upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President). The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the VicePresident, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President ; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of the President shall be eligible to that of the Vice-President of the United States.

Comments

In the election of 1800, it became apparent that the provisions for electing a President needed to be made clearer. This amendment was passed so that the Vice-President would no longer be the person who came in second in the Presidential election but would be elected on his or her. Under the amendment’s provisions, the electors in their own states and cast separate ballots, for President and VicePresident. At least one of the candidates they vote for must live in another state. After the vote, the electors make a list of the persons voted for as President and another list of the persons voted for as VicePresident. On each list they write the total votes cast for each persons and then sign their names, seal the lists, and send them to the President of the Senate in Washington.

In a meeting of all members of Congress, the President of the Senate opens the lists from all the states, and the votes are counted. The persons having the most votes for President is President, provided the number of votes received is more than half of the total number of all electors. (Now 270 or more). If no person has such a majority, the House of Representatives selects the President from the candidates who have the highest number of electoral votes, but no more than the three highest can be considered. Each state has one vote, no matter how many representatives it has. Two-thirds of the states must be represented when this vote is cast. The candidate who receives a majority of the votes of the states iş President.

The person who receives the most electoral votes for VicePresident becomes Vice-President, but he or she must get more than half the electoral votes. If no person has more than half, the Senate chooses a Vice-President from the two highest on the list of the Candidates. Two-thirds of all the senators must be present when the vote is taken. To be elected Vice-President, the Candidate must receive the votes of more than half (51 or more) of all the senators.

A person who does not have the qualifications for President of the United States cannot be Vice-President. (This addition corrected an oversight in the original constitution).

Amendment 13 (1865)

Abolition of Slavery

Text

Sec. 1 Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Sec. 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Comments

Slavery is not allowed in the United States or in any land under its control. No one may be forced to work unless a court has given that punishment for committing a crime. Congress has the power to make laws that will put this amendment into effect.

Amendment 14 (1868)

Civil Rights in the States

Text

Sec. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Sec. 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and VicePresident of the United States, representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

Sec. 3. No person shall be a senator or representative in Congress, or elector of President or Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as any office of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may be a vote of two-thirds of each house remove such disability.

Sec. 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Sec. 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Comments

The Fourteenth Amendment did several things. It gave citizenship to former slaves provided ways to protect their rights, punished confederate officers and canceled Confederate debts.

The first section defines a citizen as someone born or naturalized in the United States who is subject to the country’s laws. Such a person if a citizen of the state in which he or she resides as well as of the United States. By defining state citizenship, the amendment removed the means for state to set up their own citizenship requirements that would keep blacks from being state citizens. The section also extended some of the protections of the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments). Thus it says that state cannot make or enforce laws that prevent any citizen from enjoying his or her rights. State cannot take anyone’s life, liberty, or property except in ways that the courts say are legal and proper. Anyone living in any state is entitled to that state’s protection and the benefit of its laws.

The second section canceled the “three-fifths clause (Article 1, Section 2, Para. 3) by providing all people, except untaxed Indians, are counted in order to determine how many representatives in Congress would be decreased if it kept male citizens, who were twenty-one and over and who had not committed crimes, from voting. This provision was intended to force states to allow black men to vote; it has never been enforced.

The third section barred certain Confederate leaders from voting and holding office. Congress worded the amendment so that only those confederate leaders who had previously held national or state office were affected. This included most of the top leaders of the Confederacy. Congress removed this barrier on June 6, 1898.

The fourth section barred the states or the national government from paying any part of the Confederate debt. At the same time, it provided that the payment of the Union debt would not be questioned.

Congress was given the power to make laws that would put this amendment into effect.

Amendment 15 (1870)

Black Suffrage

Text

Sec. 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, colour, or previous condition of servitude.

Sec. 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Comments

Neither the United States nor any state has the right to keep citizens from voting because of their race or colour or because they were once slaves. Congress has the power to make laws that will put this amendment into effect.

Amendment 16 (1913)

Income Tax

Text

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Comments

Congress has the power to levy and collect income taxes from the people. In levying such a tax, Congress does not have to apportion it among the states or divide the taxes according to the population. The provision “from whatever source derived” has been used to prosecute top criminals for income-tax evasion when no other crimes could be proved.

Amendment 17 (1913)

Direct Election of Senators

Text

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies. Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any senator before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

Comments

The Senate is made up of two senators from each state, elected by the people of the state (not by the state legislature) for a six-year term. Each senator has one vote. Citizens entitled to vote for representatives in the state legislatures may vote for senators.

The governor of a state calls an election to fill a vacancy among that state’s senators. But the state legislature may allow the governor to appoint someone to fill the Senate vacancy until the election is held.

This amendment did not affect any election that had been held or the term of office of any senator in the Senate at the time the amendment was adopted.

Amendment 18 (1919)

National Prohibition

Text

Sec. 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes in hereby prohibited.

Sec. 2. The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.

Comments

One year after this amendment was ratified, it became illegal to make, sell or carry in the United States and its territories intoxicating liquors for drinking purposes. It became illegal to send such liquors out of the country and its territories or to bring such liquors into them. This amendment was declared in force on January 29, 1919.

Congress passed the Volstead Act to make this amendment effective. It defined the percentage of alcohol in intoxicating liquors and provided penalties for violations. The states and the national government were to share enforcement duties.

This amendment would not have become a part of the Constitution unless ratified by the legislatures of the states within seven years. The need for ratification within seven years was written into this and later amendments so that the government would not have many partially ratified amendments on the books.

Amendment 19 (1920)

Women’s Suffrage

Text

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Comments

Neither the United States nor any state has the right to keep a citizen from voting because she is a woman. Congress has the power to make laws that will make this amendment effective.

Amendment 20 (1933)

The “Lame-Duck” Amendment

Text

Sec.1 The terms of the President and Vice-President shall end at noon on the twentieth day of January and the terms of senators and representatives at noon on the third day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified, and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Sec. 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the third day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

Sec. 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President-elect shall have died, the Vice-President-elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President-elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice-President-elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified ; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President-elect nor a VicePresident-elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice-President shall have qualified.

Sec. 4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death if any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice-President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.

Sec. 5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the fifteenth day of October following the ratification of this article.

Sec. 6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission.

Comments

This amendment shortened the “lame-duck” period the time between election and inauguration. The terms of office of President and Vice-President end at noon, January 20 (instead of March 4). The terms of office of senators and representatives end at noon, January 3, of the same years they would have ended if this amendment had not been made.

Congress must meet at least once a year. The meeting must begin at noon, January 3, unless another date is selected by law. The former date was the first Monday in December; this meant that new members of the Congress would not normally meet until thirteen months after the election.

If the person elected “President” dies before inauguration day, the person elected Vice-President becomes President. If a President has not been chosen by January 3, or if the person chosen is not qualified to be President, then the person elected Vice-President acts as President until a President has qualified. Congress may pass a law to determine who shall act as President if neither the person elected President nor the one elected Vice-President qualifies for the position. Congress may decide how this person shall be chosen.

Congress has the power to make a law that tells the House of Representatives what to do in case it must select a President and one of the candidates has died. Congress has also the power to make a law that tells the Senate what to do in case it must select a Vice-President and one of the candidates has died. (See Amendment 12.)

Sections 1 and 2 of this amendment became law on October 15 after three-fourths of the states had agreed to this amendment. This amendment was declared to be ratified on Fabruary 6, 1933.

Amendment 21 (1933)

Repeal of Prohibition

Text

Sec. 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Sec. 2 The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Sec. 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by Convention in the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the state by the Congress.

Comments

This amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment. The national government could no longer prohibit the manufacture, sales, or transportation of intoxicating liquor. But if a state forbids bringing liquor for drinking purposes across its boundaries for use in that state, such carrying of liquor is a crime against the United States as well as against the state.

Congress required this amendment to be ratified by assemblies specially elected for that purpose. It is the only amendment adopted in this way. It was ratified on December 5, 1933.

Amendment 22 (1951)

Presidential Term of Onice

Text

Sec. 1 No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from the holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

Sec. 2. The article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.

Comments

No person can have more than two terms as President. Holding the office of President, or acting as President, for more than two years will be considered as one full term. This article did not apply Harry Truman, who was President at the time this amendment was proposed by Congress and ratified by the states.

Amendment 23 (1961)

Voting in The District of Columbia

Text

Sec. 1. The district constituting the seat of government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct.

A number of electors of President and Vice-President equal to the whole number of senators and representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a state, but in no event more than the least populous state ; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the states, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice-President to be electors appointed by a state, and they shall meet in the district and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.

Sec. 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Comments

This amendment gave the District of Columbia the right to take part in the election of the President and Vice-President of the United States. Congress enacted legislation that provided for the direct election of electors by residents of the district. The number of electors was limited to no more than the number of electors from the state with the smallest population. In this way, the district was given three votes in the electoral college.

This amendment did not provide for representation in Congress or for a system of home-rule municipal government for the district.

Amendment 24 (1964)

Abolition of Poll taxes

Text

Sec. 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice-President, for electors for President or Vice-President, or for senator or representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

Sec. 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Comments

This amendment prohibits any national or state law making the payment of a poll tax or any other tax a requirement for voting in a primary or general election of national officers, namely President, Vice-President, electors of these senators and representatives in Congress.

Amendment 25 (1967)

Presidential Disability And Succession

Text

Sec. 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or his death or resignation, the Vice-President shall become President.

Sec. 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the VicePresident, the President shall nominate a Vice-President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both houses of Congress.

Sec. 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the VicePresident as Acting President.

Sec. 4. Whenever the Vice-President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office the Vice-President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting-President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice-President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice-President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President ; otherwise the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Comments

This amendment fills two gaps in the original Constitution:

  1. It provides for filling the office of Vice-President in case of a vacancy in that office; the President is allowed to appoint a Vice-President, subject to confirmation by a vote of Congress.
  2. It determines the existence and duration of the inability of the President to fulfill the powers and duties of the office.

It provides that the President is to notify Congress if he or she is unable to perform official duties. Thereupon the Vice-President takes over and serves as Acting President. If a disabled President is unable or unwilling to notify Congress of his or her incapacity, the Vice-President, with approval of a majority of the cabinet, makes such a declaration and becomes Acting President.

When the President recovers from a disability, he or she may so notify Congress and resume the powers and duties of office.

If the President’s recovery appears doubtful, then the VicePresident with approval of a majority of the cabinet (or of some other body designated by Congress) may challenge the President’s declaration. The issue then goes to Congress. If two-thirds or more of each house votes against the President, the Vice-President continues to serve as Acting President; otherwise, the President resumes office.

Amendment 26 (1971)

Eighteen-Year-Old Vote

Text

Sec. 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

Sec. 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Comments

This amendment was hurriedly passed and ratified after the Supreme Court had held that eighteen-years olds could not be barred from voting for national officers. The amendment extended the Court’s ruling to all elections. Had this amendment not been passed, polling of places would have had to have had separate ballots and voting lists for persons between eighteen and twenty-one and for that twenty-one and the older.

Subscribe to brighten your future

An email was just sent to confirm your subscription. Please find the email and click 'Confirm Follow' to start subscribing.

About Editorial Staff

It is an educational blog and intended to serve as complete and self-contained work on essays, paragraph, speeches, articles, history, letters, stories, quotes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *