United States Government/The Later Amendments

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Contents Colonial America - Articles of Confederation - The Constitutional Convention - Ratification - The Three Branches - The Federal System - General Provisions - The Bill of Rights - The Later Amendments - Legislative Branch - Executive Branch - Judicial Branch

Introduction[edit]

Since the Bill of Rights, there have been seventeen Amendments to the Constitution.

Eleventh Amendment[edit]

When the Supreme Court decided Chisolm v. Georgia, it frustrated the state of Georgia, which felt that the federal courts had no business meddling by ruling on a suit against a state. Other states, fearing similar actions against them, pushed for the Eleventh Amendment, which prohibited lawsuits against a state in Federal court unless the state concerned grants its consent.

Twelfth Amendment[edit]

The Twelfth Amendment fine-tuned the process for electing the President. (See Part III, Chapter 2 for details.)

Thirteenth Amendment[edit]

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States and all areas under its jurisdiction. The courts have ruled that involuntary servitude does not include duly convicted persons working on prison gangs.

Fourteenth Amendment[edit]

Amended in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment served to extend much of the Bill of Rights to the states by requiring that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." It was essentially a reaffirmation that all citizens are considered equal regardless of race, which Southern states had been subverting through "Black Codes". A code might prevent voters from being able to cast a ballot unless they could read and write, which on the surface might sound reasonable. This was instead a way of keeping former slaves away from the polls because many were then illiterate. White illiteracy was assumed to be nonexistent, with those having difficulty being "helped".

Secondly, the Amendment provided that a state must follow the same due process requirements as the federal government.

Thirdly, the states were required to provide equal protection to all of its citizens- this clause intended to prevent discrimination against African-Americans, though it failed miserably in that regard.

Fourthly, it removed the original Constitutional requirement that "other persons" (slaves) count as three-fifths of a person when determining the official state population.

Fifthly, it required that a state's representation in Congress would be reduced if that state prohibited males over twenty-one from voting for a reason other than commission of a crime.

Sixthly, the Amendment prohibited any person who participates in a rebellion such as the Civil War from serving in government unless the Congress formally agrees, by a two-thirds vote in each house, to exempt the person from this requirement.

Seventhly, the Fourteenth required that any debts incurred by the Union (the North) during the Civil War were to be paid, but any debts incurred by a State of the Confederacy would be void. Furthermore, it provided that a former owner of slaves could not sue the government for the loss of his slaves.

Fifteenth Amendment[edit]

The Fifteenth Amendment took another barrier away from minorities right to vote by barring the creation of laws that barred someone from voting based on their color, race, or having been former slaves.

Sixteenth Amendment[edit]

The Sixteenth Amendment made Income Taxes constitutional. It was passed to resolve disputes regarding the matter. At one time, the Supreme Court ruled that the Tax was constitutional, while ruling at another time that it was not. All doubts were removed by the Sixteenth.

Seventeenth Amendment[edit]

The Seventeenth provided that the people of a state, and not the legislature, would be the electors of Senators. However, it retained the power of legislatures to temporarily fill vacancies until an election can be held.

Eighteenth Amendment[edit]

The Eighteenth Amendment created Prohibition, banning intoxicating liquors in the United States. It allowed both the federal and the state governments to concurrently legislate on the matter.

Nineteenth Amendment[edit]

The Nineteenth granted women the right to vote on an equal basis with men.

Twentieth Amendment[edit]

The Twentieth Amendment was known as the "lame duck" amendment. According to the original constitution and the twelfth amendment, a newly elected president did not take office until March 4. In the early days of the Republic, elections were held on different days in different jurisdictions, and travel and communication were slow. By the 1930s, however, the election was uniformly held in early November, and the winner of a presidential election was usually apparent by the next morning. This meant that a newly elected president had to wait four months take take office, leavin the outgoing president a "lame duck."

This amendment moved up the date for a new president to take office from March 4 to January 20. The first day for the newly elected Congress was moved up to January 3, allowing Congress time to select the president or vice president should the need arise. The amendment also required that Congress meet each year on January 3, unless a different day was chosen.

The amendment also provided for several remote circumstances involving deaths or resignations of presidents-elect and vice presidents-elect, as well presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Twenty-First Amendment[edit]

The Twenty-First is the only Amendment that repeals, or cancels, a previous Amendment. The Twenty-First repealed the Eighteenth Amendment and ended Prohibition.

Twenty-Second Amendment[edit]

George Washington set a standard for all future Presidents when he declined to seek a third term. This standard was either voluntarily followed by the President, or enforced by the voters, in every case until Franklin Roosevelt, who was elected four times. In order to restore Washington's tradition, the Amendment limited all future Presidents to a maximum of two terms.

Twenty-Third Amendment[edit]

The Twenty-third Amendment gave citizens of the District of Columbia the right to vote in Presidential election.

Twenty-Fourth Amendment[edit]

The Twenty-fourth prohibited the denial of a vote based on failure to pay a tax such as the poll tax. Southern states had used the poll tax to deny poor African-Americans the right to vote.

Twenty-Fifth Amendment[edit]

The Twenty-fifth provided special provisions for an emergency such as a disabled but still living President. The Amendment allowed the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to formally declare the President unable to carry out his duties. If this was the case, then the Vice President would become Acting President until the President declared himself fit to continue. If the Vice President still felt that the President was not capable of continuing, then he and the Cabinet could again declare the President's disability. If this was the case, then Congress had to assemble to decide the matter. The President would continue unless the Congress, by a vote of two-thirds of each house, agreed with the Vice President and Cabinet.

Twenty-Sixth Amendment[edit]

The Twenty-sixth provided that all persons eighteen years or older could not be denied the right to vote due to age.

Twenty-Seventh Amendment[edit]

The Twenty-seventh Amendment was originally proposed by Congress in 1789 at the same time as the Bill of Rights. However, it was not ratified by legislatures of the required three-fourths of the states until 1992. It provides that Congressional salary changes cannot take effect until an election (of Representatives) occurs.


Contents Colonial America - Articles of Confederation - The Constitutional Convention - Ratification - The Three Branches - The Federal System - General Provisions - The Bill of Rights - The Later Amendments - Legislative Branch - Executive Branch - Judicial Branch