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United States Government

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at
https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/United_States_Government

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Colonial government in America

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

Under the Kingdom of Great Britain, the American colonies experienced five situations which would guide them in creating a constitution. The British Parliament believed that it had the right to impose taxes on the colonists; it had virtual representation over the entire empire, while the colonists believed Parliament had no such right, as they had no direct representation in Parliament. By the 1720s all but two of the colonies had a locally elected legislature and a British appointed governor. Often, these two branches of government would clash, with the legislatures imposing their "power of the purse" to control the British governor. Thus, Americans viewed their legislative branch as a guardian of their liberty, while the executive branches was deemed tyrannical.

There were several examples of royal actions that upset the Americans. For example, taxes on the importation of lead, paint, tea, paper, spirits, rum, wine, molasses, sugar, and other products were imposed at various times. Also, the Parliament provided for a duty to be paid on court documents, certificates, licenses, deeds, other legal documents, playing cards, pamphlets, books, calendars, newspapers, and other papers, as well as dice. The variety of taxes imposed, as well as other causes, led to the Americans' disdain for the British system of government.

After the Boston Tea Party, the Parliament of Great Britain and the King passed Acts that outlawed the Massachusetts legislature. The Parliament also provided for special courts in which British judges, rather than American juries, would try colonists. The Quartering Act and the Intolerable Acts required Americans to provide room and board for British soldiers. Americans especially feared British actions in Canada, where civil law was once suspended in favor of British military rule.

American distaste for the system of British government would lead to revolution. Americans had formed their own local institutions which were not British at all, but American. The political ideas of the Americans actually had their root in the British radicals of the early 18th century. England had passed beyond those ideas by 1776 and the resulting conflict resulted in the first American attempts at a national government.


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



The U.S. under the Articles of Confederation

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

The Articles of Confederation[edit | edit source]

The Articles of Confederation accomplished certain things, but without a strict leader, or a government that could really do anything to help they turned out to be a bad thing for the United States at that time. First, they expressly provided that the states were sovereign. (A sovereign state is a state that is both self-governing and independent.) The United States as a Confederation was much like the present-day European Union. Each member was able to make its own laws; the entire Union was merely for the purposes of common defense.

The reason for the independence of the colonies is clear- the colonies were afraid of the power of a central government such as the one in the State of Great Britain.

The Articles provided that a Congress, consisting of two to seven members per state, would hold legislative power. The states, regardless of the number of Congress members representing them, each have one total vote.

The Congress was empowered to settle boundary and other disputes between states. It could also establish courts with jurisdiction over the seas. Also, it could tax the states, even though it did not possess the power to require the collection these taxes by law.

Faults of the Articles[edit | edit source]

The Congress, overall, was absolutely ineffectual. The Congress had to rely on the states for its funding. Since it could not forcibly collect taxes, the states could grant or withhold money and force Congress to accept their demands.

Because it could not collect taxes, Congress printed paper dollars. This policy, however, absolutely wrecked the economy because of an overabundance of paper dollars, which had lost almost all value.

The several states also printed their own currency. This led to much confusion relating to exchange rates and trade; some states accepted the currency of others, while other states refused to honor bills issued by their counterparts.

Furthermore, the Articles included certain fallacies. For instance, it suggested that the approval of "nine states" was required to make certain laws. However, it made no provision for additional states. Thus, it would appear that the number nine would be in effect even if that number would actually be a minority of states.

Also, the Articles required the approval of all states for certain important decisions such as making Amendments. As the number of 'States" would grow, securing this approval would become more and more difficult.

The Conference at Annapolis[edit | edit source]

At Annapolis, Maryland, the delegates of the thirteen states were supposed to meet to discuss various changes to the Articles to grant more authority to Congress. However, eight of the states failed to send representatives. Thus, the Conference did not even occur. However, another Conference was called for 1787. This Conference at Philadelphia is what we now know to be the Constitutional Convention.


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



The Constitutional Convention

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

Philadelphia[edit | edit source]

The Legislature[edit | edit source]

The United States were basically divided into two classes- the large (more populous) states and the small (less populous) states. The large states included Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Massachusetts. The small states included Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and even Maryland. Also, one may consider Georgia and the two Carolinas as small states, but these states hoped to increase their population and become large by importing slaves and attracting "immigrants" from other states. These were called “in-between states”

The large states wanted to have proportional representation in Congress. They wished that the more populous states have more representatives than the less populous states. However, fearing that they would be overwhelmed by large numbers of representatives from other states, the small state delegates suggested that all states receive equal representation like under the Articles.

James Madison of Virginia proposed a plan, which was presented by Edmund Randolph, supported by the large states, the Virginia Plan. It entailed:

  • A very powerful Congress of two houses based on proportional representation
  • One house elected by the people, and the second house elected by the first one
  • An executive chosen by Congress
  • Congressional power to cancel any state law
  • Based on population


Meanwhile, New Jersey politician William Paterson proposed a plan on behalf of the small states. It involved:

  • A Congress equivalent in structure to the Articles Congress
  • A Congress more powerful than the Articles Congress, but not as powerful as the Virginia Plan Congress
  • An executive chosen by Congress
  • Congressional law being supreme over state law

Thirdly, Alexander Hamilton of New York proposed a plan extremely similar to the British government. The British plan included:

  • A legislature of two houses
  • One house chosen by the people for limited terms
  • Another house chosen by a special body for life terms
  • An executive chosen by a special body for a life term
  • Congressional power to cancel any state law.
  • Based on population

Hamilton's plan was rejected very quickly- it reminded the delegates too much of the tyranny and unhappiness under the King of the State of Great Britain.

Connecticut Delegate Roger Sherman suggested that the small and large states compromise. He felt that the large states would never accept equal representation, while the small ones would never accept just proportional representation. His compromise, known as the Great Compromise, suggested the following:

  • A Congress with two houses
  • One house based on proportional representation
  • Another house based on equal representation

Though Sherman's compromise was initially rejected, the delegates were forced to accept it eventually. Otherwise, the Convention would have clearly broken down on the issue of representation.

The Executive[edit | edit source]

Once the issue of representation was resolved, other issues seemed relatively easy to negotiate. The delegates continued to compromise on several issues, including the executive.

Firstly, the delegates were concerned about a single individual as executive. The King, they said, was an individual with too much power. However, the argument failed when some pointed out that every single state in the union had one Chief Executive called a President or a Governor, rather than a Council of Presidents or Governors, and none of the states suffered from that Governor's tyranny. Similarly, the executive was granted substantial but not absolute power, after the example of the individual states.

(Pennsylvania at one time in its history had a council of three Presidents.)

The manner of choosing the executive was the only one of concern. The following were proposed as electors for the President:

  • The People
  • The state Legislatures
  • The state Governors
  • The Congress

The Framers rejected the idea of election by the People because they felt that, it would be impractical in the days of difficult communication, and inappropriate because the people would "naturally" vote for local candidates without any regard for those from other states. Also, they rejected the state or Congressional choice because they assumed that the President would feel indebted to and controlled by the states or the Congress. Such a problem would be present with any permanent body. Thus, they established a temporary body whose sole purpose was to elect the President- the Electoral College. (See Part III, Chapter 2.)

Slavery[edit | edit source]

The problem of slavery, after the issue of representation, was probably the most dangerous one for the Convention to tackle. If the Convention adopted a plan that upset one region, then the states of that region might have withdrawn from the Convention, breaking up the meeting.

Related to the issue of representation was the counting of slaves to decide the population of a state for the purpose of proportional representation in Congress. The South wanted slaves to count, but the North feared that the South could increase its power in Congress by importing more slaves. The Three-Fifths Compromise suggested the same standard as the Article of Confederation-"other persons," or slaves would be counted as three-fifths of persons. The three-fifths rule would be applied for deciding proportions in Congress and amounts of direct tax due from each state.

Another compromise relating to slavery involved the importation of slaves. The Constitutional Convention compromised by allowing the slave trade to continue until 1808, when the Congress could lawfully ban it.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The tired delegates were faced with a problem - that of a Bill of Rights. The delegates, however, refused to take the risk of breaking up the Convention and wasting hard work by debating specific rights. Thus, they assumed that a newly assembled Congress would add these Amendments, or they felt that the present Constitutional protections were sufficient.

In order for the Constitution to gain effect, the Convention required that nine states approve it. In addition, the states not ratifying, or approving, the Constitution would not be subject to it.



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



Ratification

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 | edit source]

The Constitution required ratification by nine states in order to come into effect. The fight for ratification was long and difficult. An important factor in ratifying the constitution was that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention required that ratification be done by special ratifying conventions, not by state legislature. Being interested in retaining state powers, the states would understandably have been resistant to ratifying a new, stronger central government.

Federalists versus Anti- Federalists[edit | edit source]

Those who favored ratification were known as Federalists,while those who opposed it were considered Anti- Federalists.

The Federalists attacked the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. They acknowledged that the Constitution was not perfect, but they said that it was much better than any other proposal then made.

Three Federalists- Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay- wrote a series of essays called The Federalist Papers. The essays explained the constitution and defended its provisions. The documents were intended for the state of New York, though people from across the country read them.

The Federalists defended the weakest point of the Constitution- a lack of a Bill of Rights- by suggesting that current protections were sufficient and that the Congress could always propose Amendments.

Anti- Federalists such as Patrick Henry attacked the Constitution, suggesting that it would lead to a dangerously powerful national government. The Anti- Federalist arguments relating to the Bill of Rights were especially powerful. However, many were convinced by the assurances provided by the Federalists.

State Conventions[edit | edit source]

Each state was to hold a convention to debate the Constitution and ratify or reject it. The Constitution was proposed in September, 1787. By the end of the year, some states that were in favor of the document ratified. Delaware's convention approved it by a vote of 30- 0; Pennsylvania's by a vote of 46- 23; New Jersey's by a vote of 38- 0. The next year, Georgia ratified by a vote of 26- 0 and Connecticut followed with a vote of 128- 40.

The Federalists were already more than halfway to the nine-state margin. However, the states that did not ratify the Constitution in that year included the extremely important states of Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia. Massachusetts ratified the document by a close margin (187- 168) in February, 1788. Maryland followed with a 63- 11 vote, and South Carolina did the same with a 149- 73 vote. Then, New Hampshire provided the all-important ninth ratification by a 57- 47 vote.

The United States was established under the new Constitution, but the important commercial state of New York and the populous state of Virginia, among others, still did not ratify. After tough battles, these states also ratified, Virginia by a 89- 79 margin and New York with 30- 27.

The Bill of Rights was then created under the new Constitution, leading to North Carolina's ratification by a vote of 194- 77. Seeing itself alone, Rhode Island finally agreed to ratify with a 34- 32 vote.

All thirteen colonies had ratified the Constitution by May, 1790.


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



The Three Branches

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 | edit source]

The United States Constitution divides government into three separate and distinct branches: the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. The concept of separate branches with distinct powers is known as "separation of powers." That doctrine arose from the writings of several European philosophers. The Englishman John Locke first pioneered the idea, but he only suggested a separation between the executive and legislative. The Frenchman Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, added the judicial branch.

Each branch is theoretically equal to each of the others. The branches check each others powers and use a system known as checks and balances. Thus, no branch can gain too much power and influence, thus reducing the opportunity for tyrannical government.

The Preamble to the American Constitution sets out these aims in the general statement:

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, 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".

The Legislative[edit | edit source]

The Congress is the Legislative Branch. Its main function is to make laws. It also oversees the execution of these laws, and checks various executive and judicial powers. The Congress is bicameral - it is composed of two houses. One house is the House of Representatives and the other is the Senate.

The House of Representatives is currently composed of four hundred and thirty-five members. Each of the fifty states is allocated one or more representatives based on its population which is calculated on a decennial basis (once in ten years) . Each state is guaranteed at least one representative. A state that is allocated more than one representative divides itself, as state procedures dictate, into a number of districts equal to the number of representatives to which it is entitled. The people of each district vote to elect one representative to Congress (States that have only one representative allocated choose at-large representatives - the state votes as one entire district). The District of Columbia and a number of U.S. territories have been permitted to elect delegates to the House of Representatives. These delegates may participate in debates, and sit and vote in committee, but are not allowed to vote in the full House. Every House member faces re-election in an even-numbered year and is elected to a two-year term. The House is presided over by a Speaker, who is directly elected by the members of the House.

The Senate is the upper house of the legislative branch of the United States and possesses one hundred members which is considerably less than the four hundred and thirty-five members of the House of Representatives. Each state chooses two senators, regardless of that state's population. The Constitution originally dictated that a state's senators were to be chosen by the state's legislature; after the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified in 1913, senators were elected directly by the state's population. In contrast to the House's two-year terms, Senators are elected to a six-year stint in office. In addition, only one-third of the Senate stands for election during an even year. These differences between the two houses were deliberately put into place by the Founding Fathers; the Senate was intended to be a more stable, austere body, whereas the House would be more responsive to the people's will.

The Vice-President is President of the Senate, but he/she only votes if there is a tie. The Senate also chooses a President Pro Tempore to preside in the Vice-President's absence (though, in practice, most of the time, senators from the majority take turns presiding for short periods).

The Senate and the House are both required to approve legislation before it becomes a law. The two houses are equal in legislative power, but revenue bills (bills relating to taxation) may only originate in the House. However, as with any other bill, the Senate's approval is still required, and the Senate may amend such bills.

The Senate holds additional powers relating to treaties and the appointments of executive and judicial officials. This power is known as "advice and consent." The Senate's advice and consent is required for the President to appoint judges and many executive officers, and also to ratify treaties. To grant advice and consent on treaties, two-thirds of the Senators must concur (agree).

While most votes require a simple majority to pass, it sometimes takes three-fifths of senators to bring a bill to a vote. This is because Senate rules hold that a bill cannot be voted on as long as it is being debated--and there is no limit on how long a senator may debate a bill. Senators sometimes use this rule to filibuster a bill--that is, continue debating a bill endlessly so that it cannot be voted on. The only way to end a filibuster is for three-fifths of all Senators to vote for a cloture resolution, which ends all debate and brings the bill up for voting. Use of the filibuster tends to be controversial. Whichever party is in the majority tends to call its use "obstructionism," while the other side sees it as an important check on the majority.

The House has the sole power to impeach federal executive and judicial officers. According to the Constitution, officers may be impeached for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Senate has the sole power to try all such impeachments, a two-thirds vote being required for conviction. The Constitution requires that any individual convicted by the Senate to be removed from office. The Senate also has the power to bar that individual from further federal office. The Senate may not impose any further punishment, although the parties are still subject to trial in the courts. As the Vice-President (being next-in-line to the Presidency) would have an obvious conflict of interest in presiding at a trial of the President, in such cases, the Chief Justice presides. Interestingly, no similar provision prevents the Vice-President from presiding at his or her own trial.

The Executive[edit | edit source]

The President, Vice President, and other executive officials make up the Executive Branch. The main function of this branch is to execute the laws created by Congress. The President and the Vice-President are chosen by the Electoral College, a body of people elected for the purpose of electing the President. One may wait to consider the Electoral College in further detail.

The President appoints several Secretaries to head executive departments. An executive department is a body covering a broad topic of law- examples include the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice. The several secretaries (in the case of the Justice Department, the Attorney General) serve as advisors to the President and also as the chief officers of their own departments. This group of advisors is collectively known as the President's cabinet. The President nominates these Secretaries, as well as other important federal officials, and the Senate advise and consents to them .

The Judicial[edit | edit source]

The Supreme Court and the lower courts compose the Judicial Branch. The judiciary must interpret the laws of the United States. In the course of such interpretations, the courts may find that a law violates the constitution. If so, the court declares the law unconstitutional. Thus, the judiciary also has a role in determining the law of the land.

The judges of federal courts are nominated by the President and advised and consented to by the Senate. The number of judges and the exact structure of the courts is set by law, and not by the Constitution.

The Legislative Process: How A Bill Becomes A Law[edit | edit source]

After both houses of Congress pass a bill, perhaps observing the different rules and procedures in each house, but with the exact same final text, the bill is submitted to the President. Immediately, a ten-day clock for the president to act in starts to tick. Sundays are excluded in this calculation.

Once he receives the bill, the President has many options. The outcome of the process depends on the route taken by him.

  • Signature- If the President signs a bill, it immediately takes effect as law.
  • Veto- The President may, if he pleases, return a bill to the house in which it originated. That house may then consider the President's objections. If it wishes to pass the law in any event, it must repass the bill with a two-thirds majority. If the same occurs, then the other house considers the bill, perhaps repassing it with the same two-thirds majority. If both houses pass the bill with the requisite majority, then the bill becomes law despite the President's veto. If one or both houses fail to provide an adequate majority, then the bill fails
  • No Action- The President may decide to take no action at all on a bill. If, for 10 days, the President has neither signed nor returned the bill, the bill becomes law without a signature.
  • Pocket veto- The pocket veto is an absolute veto- Congress may not override it by any majority (though it may choose to repass the bill). The pocket veto occurs near the end of a Congressional session. If the bill is with the President, and he has not signed it or returned it, and the ten-day limit has not expired, and Congress adjourns for the year (that is, it decides to meet no longer for the rest of the year), then the President may pocket veto the bill.

Checks and Balances[edit | edit source]

In order to prevent any branch of government from becoming too powerful, the Framers of the Constitution created a system of checks and balances. Each branch of government has checks on the others, while it is itself also checked. The complex system can be outlined as follows:

Checks of the Legislative

Checks on the Executive

  • Power to override vetoes
  • Power to confirm the President's appointment of a Vice President when a vacancy in the Vice Presidency occurs
  • Power to tax and allocate tax revenues for executive activities
  • Oversight and investigation of executive activities
  • (Senate) Power to approve treaties
  • (Senate) Power to approve Presidential nominees
  • (House) Impeachment, or accusation of a federal official for bribery, treason, or another high crime
  • (Senate) Trial of Impeachment

Checks on the Judicial

  • Power to set size and structure of courts
  • (Senate) Power to approve Presidential nominees for judgeships
  • (House) Impeachment
  • (Senate) Trial of Impeachment

Internal Checks

  • Approval of both houses required for passage of a law

Checks of the Executive

Checks on the Legislative

  • Power to veto
  • Power to pocket veto
  • Power to call a special session of Congress when Congress is not already meeting
  • Vice President presides over Senate meetings as President of the Senate
  • Congress cannot reduce the salary of the President while he continues in office

Checks on the Judicial

  • Power to nominate judges
  • Power to fully or partially pardon convicted criminals

Checks of the Judicial

Checks on the Legislative

  • Power to declare bills unconstitutional
  • Congress cannot reduce the salary of a judge while he continues in office
  • The Chief Justice presides over an Impeachment Trial of a President

Checks on the Executive

  • Power to declare executive acts unconstitutional

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



The Federal System

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 | edit source]

The United States is exactly that--a Union of states. Each state has its own individual powers. However, that does not mean that the states have power to legislate on all matters. The Constitution of the United States spells out the powers of the federal government and of the "several states." The Union government (known as the federal government) has its own fields of legislation, and if federal legislation conflicts with the state laws, the federal legislation prevails. If this occurs, the state must defer to the federal government. The alternative, that any state may at any time leave the Union and thus be free from Union interference in the state's internal affairs, was tried during the American Civil War.

Types of Federalism[edit | edit source]

There are two types of federal systems. The first, dual federalism, holds that the Union and the state are equal; under this view of federalism, the Union government only has the powers expressly granted to it, while the states retain all other powers. The second view, cooperative federalism, states that the federal government is definitively superior to the state government, and the federal government should stretch its powers as far as possible. The US is a Union that does not completely fit either definition. The type of federalism in effect really depends on who is in power at the time. In any case, the Constitution prevents stretching federalism too far in either extreme.


All powers retained by the states are known as reserved powers. Those specifically granted only to the Union government are known as enumerated powers. Finally, matters over which both the Union and the state governments have control are known as concurrent powers.

The Tenth Amendment provides that the Union government has only the powers expressly designated to it by the Constitution, and the states control all other matters.


Enumerated powers relate to the following:

  • Regulation of interstate and foreign commerce
  • Immigration and Citizenship
  • Bankruptcy
  • Weights and Measures
  • Currency
  • Copyrights and Patents (Special rights granted to authors and inventors relating to the writing or discovery)
  • Crimes at sea
  • Military
  • Declaration of War
  • Control of the District of Columbia
  • Federal Courts
  • "Necessary and Proper"- The necessary and proper clause allows the Union government to make laws necessary to utilize other powers. For instance, this clause allows the government to jail persons who violate laws created under the aforestated powers.

Reserved Powers[edit | edit source]

As has been mentioned, the states have control over all matters not controlled by the Union government. Some of these matters include:

  • Education
  • Police protection
  • Licensing
  • Control local governments
  • Regulate individual and corporate activities in order to protect and enhance public health, welfare, safety, morals, and convenience.

Concurrent Powers[edit | edit source]

Several powers belong concurrently to the Union and the state governments. These include:

  • Transportation
  • Taxation
  • Make and enforce laws
  • Establish courts
  • Borrow
  • Spend money for general welfare
  • Take private property for public purposes, with just compensation.
  • Charter banks and corporations



General Provisions

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 | edit source]

The Constitution provides for many things other than the Union and member state government operation.

Supreme Law[edit | edit source]

The Constitution calls itself, the United States laws, and treaties, the Supreme Law of the land. No state law may conflict with the Supreme Law. If they do, the conflicting parts are ruled void. However the supremacy of federal law over state law only applies if the federal government is acting in pursuance to its constitutionally granted powers.

Also, the Constitution is itself superior to federal laws and treaties. If either of these, or any Executive order made by the President, or a state law, or other regulation similar to law, conflicts with the constitution, the Courts may declare it unconstitutional, and the law or regulation becomes void. Note that this is not explicitly provided for by the Constitution. Chief Justice John Marshall originally used judicial review- the power to declare laws unconstitutional- in the early 1800's when he decided the case Marbury v. Madison.

Oaths[edit | edit source]

The Union and member state officers take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Only the Union President's oath is explicitly spelled out- the form of the other oaths is left to the appropriate government. The Constitution, while mentioning oaths, specifically prohibits the United States or a member state from requiring a religious oath or observance of a certain religion in order to qualify for any office.

Amendment[edit | edit source]

The Constitution is not an unchangeable document. Changes to it are known as amendments. By tradition, an amendment does not strike out words and insert others. In order to leave the original Constitution whole, Amendments are added as separate Articles at the end of the Constitution.

There are two ways in which an amendment can be proposed, and two ways in which it can be ratified, or approved. First, the Amendment can be proposed by Congress. For this to occur, two-thirds of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the Senate must vote for the Amendment. Second, an Amendment can be proposed by a Constitutional Convention. If two-thirds of the member states make an application to Congress, Congress must call this Convention, which then proposes Amendments. However, a Constitutional Convention has never been called.

Regardless of the way in which the Amendment is proposed, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the member states. The first manner in which ratification by a member state may occur is through the legislature. Secondly, a state convention can be called to ratify an amendment. The second method has only been used once. Note that each member state cannot decide which method it wishes to use. Whoever proposed the Amendment- the Congress or a Union Convention- will decide if legislatures or state conventions will ratify.

There have been twenty-seven Constitutional Amendments to date. The first ten guarantee certain already existing rights to the people and member states- they are therefore known as the Bill of Rights.


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



The Bill of Rights

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

First Amendment[edit | edit source]

"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."

The First Amendment is the best-known amendment to most Americans. It provides for and guarantees certain fundamental and basic human rights, such as:

1. Freedom of religion. The amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This means that Congress cannot make one religion official, or require people to worship in a certain way. It also forbids Congress, Federal and State courts, and State legislatures from prohibiting any one religion from being practiced.

2. Freedom of speech and of the press. The amendment also guarantees that Americans have freedom of speech, and forbids both the Federal Government and State Governments from punishing a person for expressing their views. It also calls for the freedom of the press and bars the Government from interfering with/censoring the press. Therefor the government cannot control the press (i.e. controlling what the press publishes or punishing the same for publishing a particular article or airing on television or radio a particular segment/video.)

3. Freedom of assembly and petition. The amendment guarantees that the people have the right to assemble in a peaceful manner and to consult for their common good. This has also be interpreted by the courts to also guarantee freedom of association. It also states that Americans may petition the Federal Government for a redress of grievances.

Second Amendment[edit | edit source]

"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."

The second amendment guarantees that individual Americans have the right to keep and bear firearms. The amendment is subject to many controversies about whether it applies to only people in the armed forces or everyday citizens. The Supreme Court has ruled however in District of Columbia vs Heller (2008) that the amendment applies to everyday citizens. A majority of gun laws and regulation in the USA are at State level.

Third Amendment[edit | edit source]

"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."


Soldiers, according to the Third, may not during peacetime be quartered or housed in a residence without the consent of the owner. Furthermore, even in wartime, a law is required to force people to quarter soldiers.

The Supreme Court and others have also attributed a right to personal privacy within this amendment.

Fourth Amendment[edit | edit source]

The fourth amendment of the United States Constitution reads as follows:

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.

The fourth amendment can be broken into two distinct parts. The first part provides protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, although unreasonable has been defined in a myriad of different ways. However, the framers did not qualify how a violation of this amendment was to be punished. Case law has afforded the exclusionary rule to ensure that evidence improperly collected is excluded from trial. (See Wolf v. Colorado, Mapp v. Ohio, and United States v. Leon for more information on the progression of the exclusionary rule.) This gives law enforcement officers the incentive to respect the amendment.

The second part of the amendment provides for the proper issue of warrants. However, it is important to note that it does not require that warrants be obtained prior to a search or seizure, only that searches and seizures are reasonable. When warrants are issued, their must be probable cause. Probable cause is tested using the "totality of circumstances" test as defined in Illinois v. Gates. (See Spinelli v. United States and Illinois v. Gates for the progression on probable cause tests. Also see Maryland v. Garison and Richards v. Wisconsin for more on search warrants.)

Interesting Search and Seizure Cases

  • http://www.wdnweb.com/2011/02/17/city-beefs-up-code/
  • Katz v. United States: use of electronic eavesdropping by law enforcement
  • California v. Greenwood: examination of curbside garbage
  • Florida v. Riley: use of aerial surveillance by law enforcement
  • United States v. Karo: use of electronic tracking by law enforcement
  • Kyllo v. United States: use of thermal imaging by law enforcement

Fifth Amendment[edit | edit source]

"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."


While the Fourth protects one against the police, the Fifth guarantees one's rights relating to actual charges of criminal activity. Firstly, the Fifth requires that a Grand Jury (a special body of lay-people) indict, or accuse, a person of a serious crime before he may be tried for it. The sole exception relates to the military, where Grand Juries are not used.

2: the Amendment prohibits "double jeopardy." Once a person has been tried and acquitted (found not guilty), the prosecutor cannot retry him, even if new evidence is discovered. However, the prohibition against double jeopardy does not extend to mistrials. If a jury cannot reach a verdict and the judge declares a mistrial, then the case may be retried.

3: the Amendment provides that a person cannot be compelled to testify against themselves. A person may "plead the Fifth" to avoid self-incrimination. However, the government may grant immunity, or formal protection from prosecution, to a person. Then, the person cannot be punished for what crimes he might have committed, and can be forced to give evidence.

4: the Fifth requires due process to be used. While due process is not defined in the Constitution, one may conclude that it involves fair trials with impartial juries and judges.

5: the Fifth prohibits government from taking away a person's property unless it provides fair compensation.

Sixth Amendment[edit | edit source]

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 defence.

The sixth amendment, like the fifth amendment, also guarantees and lays out a person's rights when that person had been accused of committing a crime. Firstly, a person is entitled to a "speedy and public trial by an impartial jury." This means a person cannot be arrested/detained for an unreasonable amount of time before that person goes to trial, and the trial cannot be private, unless the person accused waivers this right and ask that the trial be private. The Supreme Court has also ruled that a trial can be held in private, if by having excess publicity would serve to undermine the accused person's right to due process. Also an accused person has the right to trial by jury, and the trial must held in the State or district in which the crime was alleged to be committed.

Secondly, an accused person has the right to be informed of the "nature and cause of the accusation" against him. Therefore, an indictment must allege all the ingredients of the crime to such a degree of precision that it would allow the accused person to assert double jeopardy if the same charges are brought up in subsequent prosecution.

Thirdly, an accused person has the right to confront/cross-examine the wittiness against him, this also includes the right to cross-examine physical evidence that the prosecution will use against the accused person during the trial. An accused person also has the right to call witness to testify in his favor. If the witness refuses to testify, the court may, at the accused's request, order the witness to do so. However, in some cases the court may refuse to permit a defense witness to testify. For example, if a defense lawyer fails to notify the prosecution of the identity of a witness to gain a tactical advantage, that witness may be precluded from testifying

Fifthly, an accused person has the right to be represented by counsel (i.e. a lawyer) and if the accused person does not have a lawyer, and cannot afford one, the court must, upon the accused's request, appoint a lawyer to represent him. If the accused person is non compos mentis and incapable adequately of making his own defense, the court must, with or without the accused's request, appoint a lawyer to represent him.

Seventh Amendment[edit | edit source]

"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 reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

The seventh amendment guarantees the right to trial by jury in common law (i.e. civil) suits.

Eighth Amendment[edit | edit source]

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

The eighth amendment prohibits excessive bail from being required. This means that bail must appropriately match the crime in which the arrested/detained person is accused of committing. Therefor a person arrested for littering cannot be put on bail for 50,000 dollars, as that would be excessive for that respective offense. However bail may be denied if a person is arrested on murder charges. It also prohibits excessive fines from being imposed as punishment for crime and again must appropriately match the respective crime. Lastly, it forbids cruel and unusual punishments.

Ninth Amendment[edit | edit source]

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

The ninth amendment states that Americans have more rights than what are listed in the Bill of Rights and that all because a right is not listed in the same, does not mean Americans do not posses that right.

Tenth Amendment[edit | edit source]

"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.

The Tenth Amendment prevents the Union government from regulating a matter it is not constitutionally entitled to regulate. The Union government, therefore, cannot infringe upon a state's reserved powers.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]



The Later Amendments

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 | edit source]

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

Eleventh Amendment[edit | edit source]

"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."

The eleventh amendment was adopted in response to the Supreme Court case Chisolm v. Georgia, (1793) in which the court ruled that the Constitution granted federal courts the power to hear cases brought against states from its own citizens or citizens of different state or citizens or subject of foreign countries. This established that states lack sovereign immunity from suits brought in federal courts. The 11th amendment however, superseded and overruled the supreme court ruling and established that the states have sovereign immunity from from suits brought against them from citizens of another states or citizens of foreign countries.

Twelfth Amendment[edit | edit source]

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

Thirteenth Amendment[edit | edit source]

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished and outlawed slavery everywhere in the United States and every place subject to their jurisdiction. It also abolished and outlawed involuntary servitude except to punish crime.

Fourteenth Amendment[edit | edit source]

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.

Secondly, the Amendment provided that a State cannot deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

Thirdly, the amendment required that every State provide equal protection to all of its citizens- this clause intended to prevent discrimination against African-Americans, although due to several supreme court rulings the clauses effects were almost rendered invalid.

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

Fifthly, it stated 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 disqualification.

Seventhly, the Fourteenth required that any debts incurred by the Union (the North) during the Civil War were to be held valid and as such had to be paid, but that any and all debts incurred by the Confederacy were illegal and void and as such could not and would not be paid. It also stated that any person who lost slaves during the civil war could not sue the Government because of the loss thereof.

Fifteenth Amendment[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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

Twentieth Amendment[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

The Twenty-First is the only Amendment that repeals, or cancels/invalidates, a previous Amendment. The Twenty-First repealed the Eighteenth Amendment and ended Prohibition at a national level, although it exclusively gave the States the power to prohibit the sale, manufacture or distribution of intoxicating liquors within their respective borders.

Twenty-Second Amendment[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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

Twenty-Fourth Amendment[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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



The Legislative Branch

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

Congress[edit | edit source]

As has been stated earlier, Congress includes two distinct houses- the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives represents the people of the States based upon the population of each, while the Senate allows two Senators to each state regardless of population.

The Legislative[edit | edit source]

The Congress is the Legislative Branch. Its main function is to make laws. It also oversees the execution of these laws, and checks various executive and judicial powers. The Congress is bicameral- it is composed of two houses. One house is the House of Representatives, the other is the Senate.

The House of Representatives, or House for short, is currently composed of four hundred and thirty-five members. Each of the fifty states is allocated one or more representatives based on its population as calculated by the decennial (once in ten years) census. Each state is guaranteed at least one representative. A state that is allocated more than one representative divides itself, as state procedures dictate, into a number of districts equal to the number of representatives to which it is entitled. The people of each district vote to elect one representative to Congress (States that have only one representative allocated choose at-large representatives- the state votes as one entire district). The District of Columbia and a number of U.S. territories have been permitted to elect delegates to the House. These delegates may participate in debates, and sit and vote in committee, but are not allowed to vote in the full House. Every House member faces re-election in an even-numbered year and is elected to a two-year term. The House is presided over by a Speaker, who is directly elected by the members of the House.

The Senate is the upper house of the United States' legislative branch, possessing only one hundred members to the house's four hundred thirty-five. Each state chooses two senators, regardless of that state's population. The Constitution originally dictated that a state's senators were to be chosen by the state's legislature; after the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified in 1913, senators were elected directly by the state's population. In contrast to the House's two-year terms, Senators are elected to a six-year stint in office. In addition, only one-third of the Senate stands for election during an even year. These differences between the two houses were deliberately put into place by the Founding Fathers; the Senate was intended to be a more stable, austere body, whereas the House would be more responsive to the people's will.

The Vice-President is President of the Senate, but he/she only votes if there is a tie. The Senate also chooses a President Pro Tempore to preside in the Vice-President's absence (though, in practice, most of the time, senators from the majority take turns presiding for short periods).

The Senate and the House are both required to approve legislation before it becomes a law. The two houses are equal in legislative power, but revenue bills (bills relating to taxation) may only originate in the House. However, as with any other bill, the Senate's approval is still required, and the Senate may amend such bills.

The Senate holds additional powers relating to treaties and the appointments of executive and judicial officials. This power is known as "advice and consent." The Senate's advice and consent is required for the President to appoint judges and many executive officers, and also to ratify treaties. To grant advice and consent on treaties, two-thirds of the Senators must concur (agree).

While most votes require a simple majority to pass, it sometimes takes three-fifths of senators to bring a bill to a vote. This is because Senate rules hold that a bill cannot be voted on as long as it is being debated--and there is no limit on how long a senator may debate a bill. Senators sometimes use this rule to filibuster a bill--that is, continue debating a bill endlessly so that it cannot be voted on. The only way to end a filibuster is for three-fifths of all Senators to vote for a cloture resolution, which ends all debate and brings the bill up for voting. Use of the filibuster tends to be controversial. Whichever party is in the majority tends to call its use "obstructionism," while the other side sees it as an important check on the majority.

The House has the sole power to impeach federal executive and judicial officers. According to the Constitution, officers may be impeached for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Senate has the sole power to try all such impeachments, a two-thirds vote being required for conviction. The Constitution requires that any individual convicted by the Senate to be removed from office. The Senate also has the power to bar that individual from further federal office. The Senate may not impose any further punishment, although the parties are still subject to trial in the courts. As the Vice-President (being next-in-line to the Presidency) would have an obvious conflict of interest in presiding at a trial of the President, in such cases, the Chief Justice presides. Interestingly, no similar provision prevents the Vice-President from presiding at his or her own trial.

House of Representatives[edit | edit source]

Every ten years, the United States conducts a Census to determine the population of each state. Then, each state is apportioned, or allocated, a number of seats based on its Census population, with the more populous states receiving more seats than the less populous ones. Currently, one seat equals roughly 600,000 constituents. However, no matter how low a state's population is, it is always entitled to at least one seat.

The state then conducts a process known as redistricting. In this process, the state divides itself into a number of districts of equal population; each district may then elect one representative. Of course, in states entitled to only one representative, the entire state is one district and redistricting does not occur. (See gerrymandering)

In addition to representatives for the states, five American territories- the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa- each choose non-voting members. Puerto Rico chooses a "Resident Commissioner" for a four-year term, while the others choose "Delegates" for two-year terms.

Representatives hold office for two-year terms. The election for Representatives is held on the Tuesday immediately after the first Monday in November of every even numbered year. A Representative actually takes office on January 3rd after the election.

No person may be a Representative unless he qualifies under the Constitution as follows. The requirements are: at least twenty-five years of age, inhabitance in the state of election, and citizenship of the United States for at least seven years.

Though no specific number of Representatives is set by the Constitution, the law of the United States sets the number of Representatives at 435.

The House of Representatives elects a Speaker who presides over the House.[1] The Speaker is traditionally the leader of the majority party of the House.[2] The Speaker of the House does have a significant role outside of the Congress in that she or he is third in line to the Presidency.[3]

Because of its size, the House relies heavily upon fixed rules and strict timetables for debate. When bills are debated on the floor of the House, each party's leader is allocated a fixed amount of time to present their argument for or against the bill, and they can appropriate this time to members of their party as they see fit. During House debates, it is common for representatives to "yield their time" to one another. Times for debate and other procedures are set by the House Rules Committee, which is generally considered to be one of the most powerful committees in Congress.

Senate[edit | edit source]

Each state is entitled to two senators regardless of population. Originally, the state legislatures chose the senators. However, the people of the states choose their own senators at present.

Senators hold office for six-year terms. Elections are held every two years, at the same time as the election for Representatives. The Senators are classified into three separate classes. At each election, the Senate seats of one particular class are up for election.

Constitutional requirements for Senators are slightly more strict than those for Representatives. The qualifications are: at least thirty years of age, inhabitance in the state of election, and citizenship of the United States for at least nine years.

The Vice President of the United States presides over the Senate and holds the title of President of the Senate. His power is considerably lesser than that of the Speaker of the House. He also does not have a vote in the Senate, unless the Senate is tied. As the Vice President normally does not attend unless there is a likelihood of a tie vote, the Senate chooses one of its members to be President of the Senate pro tempore, or temporarily. The President pro tem, as he is often called, is normally the most senior Senator of the majority party. Just as in the house, the President or President pro tem does not preside during most meetings; this task is often given to new Senators so that they may learn the procedures of the body. This is not as easily possible in the House because of the much greater authority of whoever presides over the Representatives.

In comparison to the House, the Senate has relatively few procedural rules, and no fixed schedules for debate. It is possible for a Senator to continue speaking for hours on end to delay unwanted legislation: this tactic is called a "filibuster." Any individual Senator is also allowed, by Senate rules, to stop the introduction of a bill with a motion from the floor, although this is almost never done in practice.

Party leaders, committees, and caucuses[edit | edit source]

Both major political parties (the Republican Party and the Democratic Party) have designated floor leaders in both houses of Congress. The floor leader for the majority party is called the House (or Senate) Majority Leader, while the floor leader for the minority party is called the House (or Senate) Minority Leader. The second-in-command of each party's delegation is called the Whip, as their job is to "whip" other members of the party into action on various legislative measures.

Each party's leadership is responsible for allocating its members to committees. There are a number of "standing committees" in each house, dedicated to various government functions such as the armed forces, education, and transportation. At any time, there are also several "select committees" that are set up for more timely problems such as government reforms. Occasionally, both houses of Congress will establish a "joint committee" to deal with certain issues.

There are also many less formal associations in Congress, known as "caucuses," which are formed by members interested in various issues, such as relations with specific countries, ethnic issues, and industrial sectors.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 2
  2. Sinclair, B. (1995). Legislators, leaders, and lawmaking the U.S. House of Representatives in the postreform era. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 67
  3. Presidential Succession Act(3 U.S.C. § 19) and Section 4 of Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution



The Executive Branch

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

The Executive Branch, which executes and enforces the laws, is headed by the President and the Vice President. In addition, it includes the executive departments, which deal with general topics, and the heads of departments, who are known as Secretaries (Attorney-General in the Department of Justice). Each Department, in turn, is divided into a number of bodies, which are known as agencies, services, commissions, councils, bureaus, authorities, offices, administrations, and boards.

The President[edit | edit source]

The President is the elected head of state and head of government of the United States. The President leads the Executive Branch and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

Article Two of US Constitution vest the executive power in the President. The power includes execution of federal law, alongside the responsibility of appointing federal executive, diplomatic, regulatory and judicial officers and making treaties with foreign nations, however all treaties made by the President must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. The president is further empowered to grant federal pardons and reprieves, and to convene and adjourn either or both houses of Congress under extraordinary circumstances. The President is also largely responsible for dictating the legislative agenda of the party to which he is enrolled.

The President of the United States is often considered one of the most powerful people in the world.

Powers and Duties[edit | edit source]

Article One: Legislative Powers.

The first power the President is given in the Constitution, is the power to veto bills of legislation. The Constitution requires that all bills passed by Congress to be presented to the President before it can obtain legal force. Once a bill has been presented, the President has one of three options:

  1. The president may sign the bill, it which case it obtains legal force.
  2. The President may veto (refuse to sign) the bill, in which case it does not obtain legal force. The President then returns the bill, expressing any obligation he may have had on it, to Congress. Congress may override a veto by a two-thirds vote in both houses. Upon overriding the veto, the bill obtains legal force.
  3. The President may take no action on a bill. In this case the President does not sign or veto the legislation. If after ten days, not including Sundays, the President has still neither signed nor vetoed the bill, two possible outcomes emerge:
    • If Congress is still convened, the bill becomes law.
    • If Congress has adjourned, thus preventing the return of the legislation, the bill does not become law. This latter outcome is known as the pocket veto.

Article Two: Executive Powers.

One of the most important Presidential powers is the command-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the United States. While the Constitution vest the power to declare war solely in Congress, the President is ultimately reasonable for the disposition and direction of the Armed Forces.

Along with the armed forces, the president also directs U.S. foreign policy. Through the Department of State and the Department of Defense, the president is responsible for the protection of Americans abroad and of foreign nationals in the United States. The president decides whether to recognize new nations and new governments, and negotiates treaties with other nations, which become binding on the United States when approved by two-thirds vote of the Senate.[citation needed]

Although not constitutionally provided, presidents also sometimes employ "executive agreements" in foreign relations. These agreements frequently regard administrative policy choices germane to executive power; for example, the extent to which either country presents an armed presence in a given area, how each country will enforce copyright treaties, or how each country will process foreign mail. However, the 20th century witnessed a vast expansion of the use of executive agreements, and critics have challenged the extent of that use as supplanting the treaty process and removing constitutionally prescribed checks and balances over the executive in foreign relations. Supporters counter that the agreements offer a pragmatic solution when the need for swift, secret, and/or concerted action arises

The President is the head/leader of the Executive Branch of the federal government and is Constitutionally bound to "take care that the law be faithfully executed." The President has the power to make appointments within the Executive branch. Ambassadors, members of the Presidential Cabinet, and federal court officers are appointed by the President, although every appointed official by him must be approved by the Senate.

The President also has the power to fire/remove purely executive officials at will, although Congress has the authority to curtail or constrain the Presidents power to fire/remove commissioners of independent regulatory agencies and certain inferior executive officers by statute.

The president possesses the ability to direct much of the executive branch through executive orders that are grounded in federal law or constitutionally granted executive power. Executive orders are reviewable by federal courts and can be superseded by federal legislation.

The president also has the power to nominate federal judges, including members of the United States courts of appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States. However, these nominations do require Senate confirmation. Securing Senate approval can provide a major obstacle for presidents who wish to orient the federal judiciary toward a particular ideological stance. When nominating judges to U.S. district courts, presidents often respect the long-standing tradition of Senatorial courtesy. Presidents may also grant pardons and reprieves for offense recognizable under federal law. The President cannot, however, grant pardons in impeachment cases, or grant pardons for persons convicted under State law/Jurisdiction.

The President also cannot be simultaneously a member of Congress, neither can any other executive officer. Therefore, the President cannot directly introduce legislative proposals for consideration in Congress. However, the President can take an indirect role in shaping legislation, especially if the President's political party has a majority in one or both houses of Congress. For example, the President or other officials of the executive branch may draft legislation and then ask senators or representatives to introduce these drafts into Congress. The President can further influence the legislative branch through constitutionally mandated, periodic reports to Congress. These reports may be either written or oral, but today are given as the State of the Union address, which often outlines the President's legislative proposals for the coming year. Additionally, the President may attempt to have Congress alter proposed legislation by threatening to veto that legislation unless requested changes are made.

Succession[edit | edit source]

If the President dies, resigns, is removed from office, or is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the Presidency, the Vice-President becomes President.

Under the Twenty-Fifth amendment, the President may declare himself disabled and upon doing so, transfers the powers and duties of the Presidency to the Vice-President, who then becomes acting President. The President may resume the powers and duties of the Presidency by declaring himself again able to discharge the same. Under the same amendment, the Vice-President, along with a majority of the members of the President's cabinet, may declare the President disabled by submitting a written declaration to the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate, stating that President is disabled from discharging the powers and duties of the Presidency, and upon doing so, transfer the Presidential powers to the Vice-President as acting President. The President may resume discharging the powers and duties of the Presidency by submitting a written declaration to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President pro tempore of the senate stating that such disability does not exist. If the Vice-President and Cabinet contest this claim, it is up to Congress, which must meet within two days if not already in session, to decide the merit of the claim.

A President is:

  1. required to be natural born citizen,
  2. required to be at least thirty-five years of age,
  3. required to have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least Fourteen years,
  4. barred from being elected to the office more than twice.

A person may not hold the office of President, if that person:

  1. was impeached by the Senate and voted by the same to be disqualified from holding any federal office, including that of President,
  2. Once swore to uphold the Constitution and latter rebelled against the United States, although such disqualification can be removed by a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress.

The Vice President[edit | edit source]

The Vice President's only executive function in the Constitution is to become President in the event that the President dies or is incapacitated. The 25th Amendment provides that this may occur when:

  1. "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;" or
  1. "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."

Additionally, "whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress."

In practice, the Vice President often takes an active role in policy making.

The Vice President also serves as president of the Senate, but cannot vote except to break a tie.

Elections[edit | edit source]

Each state is entitled to choose a number of Electors equal to the number of Representatives and Senators it elects to Congress. Thus, a state will choose no less than three electors- two for the Senators, and one for the minimum of one Representative.

The state may choose its Electors in any way it pleases. However, all the states allow the people to choose all Electors. Forty-eight states use the following system: each candidate nominates a panel of electors. When a voter votes for a candidate, they actually vote for the nominated panel. Then, the candidate who wins more votes than any other candidate has his nominated panel appointed. Thus, a candidate who does not necessarily win all the votes will receive all of the state's electors. The exceptions to this system are Maine and Nebraska. These states allow a candidate to nominate one state panel of two electors, plus one elector for each district. Then, the candidate who wins the state has his two-member state panel appointed as electors, while the candidate who wins an individual district has his nominee for that district appointed. In all cases, the election for the Electors is held on the same day as Congressional elections.

Regardless of how they are chosen, the Electors all assemble in their own states in December. The manner of the voting by Electors has changed. Firstly, the following is the original system:

  • Each Elector casts two votes for President. One of those votes must be for a person not an inhabitant of the same state as the Elector. Then, if a candidate receives the votes of a majority of Electors becomes President, while the runner-up becomes Vice President. If one compares the Presidency to a gold medal, then one may say that the Vice Presidency was like a silver medal.

If, however, no candidate received a majority, then the House of Representatives would choose one of the top five candidates as President. In voting for President, each state casts one block vote. In any case, whichever other candidate holds the greatest number of votes other than the candidate elected President becomes Vice President. In case of a tie for second-place, the Senate elects the Vice President.

  • The above system seems to allow for all contingencies, but it did not allow for the development of political parties. Prior to the election of 1800, parties did not nominate candidates. However, in 1800, the Democratic-Republican Party nominated Thomas Jefferson for President and Aaron Burr for Vice President. The pair won a clear majority of the votes. However, both had an equal number of Electoral votes. Though the original intention was clearly for Jefferson to become President and Burr to become Vice President, the House still had to vote to choose one or the other as President. The House votes tied thirty-five times until Jefferson was finally elected President.
  • In order to prevent a recurrence, the Twelfth Amendment was passed. Under the Amendment, the electors would vote separately for President and Vice President. In each case, a majority was required for someone to be elected. If no majority was apparent for President, then the House would choose among the top three candidates, again voting by states. Similarly, the Senate would vote between the top two candidates for Vice President.

The District of Columbia chooses Electors like the other states, but the District can in no event choose more Electors than any other state.

Executive departments[edit | edit source]

At present, there are fifteen executive departments. They are the departments of:

  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Department of Commerce (DOC)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of Education (ED)
  • Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Department of Labor (DOL)
  • Department of State (DOS)
  • Department of the Interior (DOI)
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Each department is subdivided into a number of agencies, bureaus and other divisions.

Executive agencies[edit | edit source]

In addition to the Cabinet departments, there are certain independent bodies which are not part of any department, but report directly to the Executive Office of the President. These include:

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
  • Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR)

The Cabinet[edit | edit source]

The Cabinet currently consists of the Vice President, the White House Chief of Staff, the heads of each executive department, and the heads of the EPA, OMB, ONDCP and USTR.



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



The Judicial Branch

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

The Courts[edit | edit source]

The United States judicial system includes the Supreme Court of the United States and the inferior federal courts. The President nominates an individual to serve as a judge, after which the Senate must grant its advice and consent before the President can formally appoint the judge. A judge holds office during "good behavior", which is usually interpreted as meaning a life term.

The Supreme Court[edit | edit source]

The Constitution creates the Supreme Court, but permits Congress to set the number of Justices. Currently, the Supreme Court includes the Chief Justice of the United States and eight Associate Justices. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over limited categories of cases, such as cases between two or more states. It hears most of its cases through its appellate jurisdiction, in which it hears appeals from lower federal and state courts. It exercises its appellate jurisdiction selectively; four of the nine Justices must grant a writ of certiorari before a case can be heard.

The Court of Appeals[edit | edit source]

The United States is divided into twelve regional circuits, each of which has a Court of Appeal. Additionally, there is a Federal Circuit which hears appeals from certain special tribunals and courts. The regional circuits (which are officially known by a number only, except for the DC circuit) are as follows:

  • District of Columbia
  • First Circuit- Northern New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island plus the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico)
  • Second Circuit- Southern New England (Vermont, New York, and Connecticut)
  • Third Circuit- Middle Atlantic (Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey plus US Territory Virgin Islands)
  • Fourth Circuit- Upper Southeast (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina)
  • Fifth Circuit- Deep South (Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi)
  • Sixth Circuit- Eastern Great Lakes (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee)
  • Seventh Circuit- Western Great Lakes (Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana)
  • Eighth Circuit- Midwest (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska)
  • Ninth Circuit- West (Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona plus US Territories Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands)
  • Tenth Circuit- Southwest (Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico)
  • Eleventh Circuit- Lower Southeast (Alabama, Georgia, and Florida)

Each Court of Appeal includes a different number of members. The First Circuit has the fewest with six members, while the Ninth Circuit has the most with twenty-eight.

District Court[edit | edit source]

Every state is divided into one or more Court Districts (which are distinct from Congressional districts). The total number of districts is ninety-four.

Each district court includes a different number of members. The Eastern and Western District of Kentucky, the Eastern District of Oklahoma, and the Northern, Eastern, and Western District of Oklahoma, each have the fewest judges with one, while the Central District of California has the most with twenty-seven.

Other Courts[edit | edit source]

The Congress has established special bankruptcy courts and other courts to rule on specific matters.


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



The Legislative Branch-Criticism

  1. Should congressional term limit exist?



The Judicial Branch-Criticism

  1. Should citizens being able to overrule the Supreme Court?
  2. Does the judicial branch upset the principle of checks and balances?



Federalism and State Authority

Federalism and State Authority[edit | edit source]

The United States, with a few exceptions such as Canada and Austria, is unique in its anti-federalist system, where sovereign governments share certain powers. As you may recall in the study of the Articles of Confederation as well as the debate over the ratification of the Constitution, the argument concerning the power of the federal government versus that of the states was a hot issue. In fact, the debate continued for many decades after the Constitution went into effect, leading to the Civil War, which ultimately settled the supremacy of the federal government over the states. Even so, the debate continues to one extent or another over where the boundaries between federal prerogative and states' rights should be drawn.

What is Federalism?[edit | edit source]

Federalism, as stated before, is a sharing of power between sovereign governments. The federal government has specific powers laid out in the Constitution. And while the Tenth Amendment reserves any power "to the States respectively, or to the people" any powers not expressly granted to the federal government by the Constitution, Article IV details the relationship of the states with the federal government, as well as limits on the states.

  • "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." (Section 1) In other words, documents such as driver's licenses and marriage certificates are recognized across state lines, and court rulings in one state still apply in other states. This is known as the "full faith and credit clause."
  • "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States." (Section 2, Clause 1) This has been the source of differing interpretations, with one side purporting the idea that this clause requires the federal government to treat all citizens equally, while the other side contends that the rights afforded on a person's home state will be carried over into another state. The Supreme Court has upheld the meaning as disallowing states from discriminating against citizens of another state over its own citizens.
  • "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." (Section 2, Clause 2) If a governor of one state requests a fugitive who has crossed into another state to be returned to his or her home state (extradition), then the governor of the other state must do so. The Supreme Court has ruled that federal courts may compel governors to surrender fugitives (writs of mandamus).
  • "No Person held to Service or 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." (Section 2, Clause 3) Called the Fugitive Slave Clause, this portion of the Constitution is no longer valid -- it was repealed following the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. However, when it was in effect, it allowed for the extradition of runaway slaves returned on the claims of their enslavers.
  • "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States 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." (Section 3, Clause 1) This simply states that Congress may admit new states into the United States. It forbade the creation of new states from portions of current states or portions of two states combined unless the legislatures of the concerned state or states, as well as Congress, agreed. There was (and still is, nominally) debate about how the State of West Virginia came about, since it was carved out of a portion of the State of Virginia by Union sympathizers during the Civil War, and yet done so without the consent of the Virginia legislature.
  • "The Congress shall have power to dispose of 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." (Section 3, Clause 2) Essentially, all federal territories are areas belonging to but not a part of the United States. In the past, such areas included the Louisiana Territory, the Oregon Territory, and Alaska before statehood. Examples today include Puerto Rico and Guam, which are not states but are U.S. territories. The U.S. Congress has final power over U.S. territory and has the power to determine which portions of the Constitution apply in the territories.
  • "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 Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence." (Section 4) Self-explanatory; each state in the U.S. will have a republican form of government. And they do. State governments run parallel to the federal government, with three branches of government. State governments are very similar to each other and to the federal government. This will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter. The federal government also has a responsibility to protect states from invasion or attack.

How State Governments Work[edit | edit source]

As was mentioned earlier, state governments are very similar to the structure of the federal government, with three branches (legislative, executive, judicial). Each state has its own constitution, but the specifics of the laws, regulations, and the system itself differs from state to state. In this respect, states are not mere subordinate provinces of Washington, DC, but sovereign states in Union with each other. State governments are thus very powerful compared to their counterparts in most other countries. However, the U.S. Constitution remains the ultimate authority as supreme law of the land.

Executive[edit | edit source]

Governor[edit | edit source]

The executive branch of government in each of the states is headed by the governor, who is elected by the citizens of each state and not subordinate to federal authority. As such, the governor is head of government, head of state, and commander-in-chief of the state's military forces (the National Guard). The process for the election of the governor, the extent of his or her power, and the limitations on the governor's term of service are different for each state, according to each state's constitution.

Lieutenant governors are often elected on the same ticket as the governor. However, in 18 states, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately, and it is possible (and often the case) for governors and lieutenant governors to be of different political parties. 42 of the 50 states and all five U.S. territories have lieutenant governors. Lieutenant governors are essentially "second in command" to the governor, and have many roles similar to that of the vice president of the United States. If a governor is out of the state or dies or becomes incapacitated, the lieutenant governor takes over as governor (though, in some states, the lieutenant governor becomes acting governor until an election is held). The lieutenant governor is often the presiding officer of the upper house of the state legislature (similar to the vice president's role as president of the U.S. Senate), and in some states the lieutenant governor is equivalent to a secretary of state position in other states.

Departments and Offices[edit | edit source]

Unlike the federal government, most states have plural executives, in which key members of the executive are elected by the people. This is not true across the nation, however, and varies greatly by state, with some such positions done by election and some by appointment. In some states, all or several of these positions may be constitutionally-created, while in other states, some or all of these positions are appointed by the governor, legislature, or judiciary. These posts include (but are certainly not limited to) secretaries of state, attorney generals, and state auditors.

Secretaries of State are probably most known for their duties as the chief election officials of their respective states. The secretary of state is usually in the line of succession for the governorship, usually after the lieutenant governor. In states which do not have a lieutenant governor, the secretary of state is next in the line of succession for the governorship. In states which do not have a secretary of state, the duties often fall upon the lieutenant governor. Common duties amongst secretaries of state throughout the United States include administration of the Uniform Commercial Code (law which ensures uniformity in business contracts and practices across the United States), record keeping, administration of notaries public, and keepers of the states' seal. In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, this position is called "Secretary of the Commonwealth."

State attornies general are chief legal advisors to the state government and chief law enforcement officers of the state. In some states, they head a state department of justice, similar to that of the U.S. Department of Justice.

State auditors may also be known as state comptrollers or state controllers.

Several state departments exist similar to the president's cabinet at the federal level. These departments administer the state's bureaucracy, and may variously be known as departments, agencies, or commissions, dependant on state. One well-known bureaucratic agency in which people deal with regularly is the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is the agency which issues driver's licenses and registration. In some states, the function is handled by an actual Department of Motor Vehicles (or similar agency with a different name), while in other states it is handled by subdivisions of the state's transportation department. In Hawaii, this function is done at the county level. Some other agencies which you (the reader) may be familiar with include Fish & Game, Forestry, or Transportation.

Law Enforcement[edit | edit source]

State Marshall[edit | edit source]
State Police/State Trooper/Highway Patrol[edit | edit source]
Forest/Park Ranger[edit | edit source]

State Assembly[edit | edit source]

State Judiciary[edit | edit source]

County Government[edit | edit source]

The county is the level of administration subordinate to the state. Counties exist as political divisions in 48 of the 50 states. In Connecticut and Rhode Island, counties represent little more than geographical divisions -- lines on the map. In Alaska, counties are known as boroughs, and in Louisiana, they are called parishes. County governments range in power from state to state, from non-existent (as is the case in Connecticut and Rhode Island), to weak (most parts of New England) to having a wide range of power within their specific county or jurisdiction.

Administration[edit | edit source]

The administrative center of a county is known as the county seat. It is almost analogous to the "capital city" for the county. Counties are often governed by a board of supervisors or county commission (as with most everything discussed thusfar in this section, there are great variations across state lines and, in some cases, even county lines), which are elected by the people in the county. These boards or commissions have executive, legislative, and judicial power within their jurisdictions; the power to enact county ordinances, the power to enforce said ordinances, and even certain limited appellate powers relating to county administration and decisions made by commissions underneath the board, especially relating to planning.

Day-to-day operations are often overseen by a county manager. A county clerk, registrar, or recorder is responsible for records such as corporate charters, marriage licenses, judgements, elections, and voter registration. In addition, in most counties, the local trial courts are located at the county seat.

Services and Scope[edit | edit source]

As was mentioned above, the scope of each county's authority in administrating its jurisdiction varies greatly across the country. In New England, this scope is minimal -- non-existent in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and parts of Massachusetts, where the ability to tax and issue permits lies with municipal governments. In other parts of New England, counties function as part of a sheriff's jurisdiction (see below).

In most counties outside of New England, counties typically provide courts, public utilities, libraries, hospitals, public health, parks, roads, law enforcement, and jails. Other key county officials include the coroner/medical examiner, treasurer, assessor, auditor, controller, and district attorney.

The Sheriff[edit | edit source]

The duties and responsibilities of sheriffs vary greatly across state and county lines. A sheriff is generally the highest law-enforcement official for the county, and is often elected by the people of the county, a unique characteristic of United States politics. In the South, the election for sheriff may be seen as the most important position in county politics.

The sheriff's office uses sworn officers called sheriff's deputies to execute the law enforcement responsibilities of his or her office. Again, these duties vary greatly between states, with commensurate duties going to state police in some states. Of the 3,141 counties in the United States, only 80 have an actual "county police department." The sheriff's department usually performs the duties of "county police."

Taxation[edit | edit source]

Though rare, counties may impose a sales tax on goods and services purchased in a county. Most revenue for the county comes in the way of property taxes (such as on a home or place of business), user fees (such as those for parks), and other fees or fines (traffic violations, parking meters, etc.). These funds are used to provide county services, such as law enforcement, schools, or snow removal.

Municipalities[edit | edit source]

Municipalities are levels of government below the county level. Different sorts of municipalities include villages, towns or townships, and cities. These are incorporated by state charter. Any area not incorporated into a municipality is considered to be an unincorporated area, and is directly administered by the county.

Administration[edit | edit source]

Law Enforcement[edit | edit source]

Taxation[edit | edit source]

County-City[edit | edit source]

Other Governmental Authorities Within A State[edit | edit source]

Indian/Tribal Government[edit | edit source]



Constitutional Issues

Discussing The Constitution

  1. Collected The Wisdom of all Ages?



Civic Society

  1. Natural rights and Classical Republicanism in America



Foreign Policy

War[edit | edit source]

This definition of war is problematic. Typically a declaration of war can only be made between nations, states, or specific entities. War is also understood as the continuation of policy by other means, so labeling an actual policy as war seems to indicate the refusal to come to any political understanding about the subjects in question.

North Korea (China)[edit | edit source]

Respecting a ceasefire of the Korean War since 1953. Both Koreas are still technically at war and so by proxy it constitutes an ongoing war between China and the United States.

War on Drugs (South America)[edit | edit source]

Clipboard

To do:
Form Manuel Noriega (CIA involvement), Colombia (economic interests) to Mexico (immigration policy, US exporting organized gangs), US as one of the major consumer/importer of drugs (see http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/WDR-2009.html)


War on Terrorism[edit | edit source]

The USA has also declared itself to be to fighting a "war on terrorism". This bring to the table the concept of "terrorism" and "terrorist", there is no internationally agreed definition of terrorism. But the term imparts a negative light on an opposing group. On the other end of the spectrum it would be the label of "resistance", "freedom fighters", etc.

A more neutral definition would be "violent non-state actor", meaning a group constituted by irregular forces, with typically no formal organization, that is engaged in asymmetric and clandestine paramilitary operations against a given state or state interest.

A declaration of war in these terms cannot be formally made. As such a statement that there is a "war on terrorism" is insufficient to clearly define what the USA policy on terrorism actually is. It can reasonably be inferred from current behavior that this one sided state of open, armed and prolonged conflict, not against all "terrorists groups" as the USA is only taking action against groups that block or create difficulties to its national interests. This also makes it extremely hard to define the achievement of goals and creates an impossibility to reach a status of submission from the opposing forces.



Domestic Issues

Emigration[edit | edit source]

Political representation[edit | edit source]

Education[edit | edit source]

Racial problems[edit | edit source]

National Economy[edit | edit source]

Uneven distribution of wealth[edit | edit source]

Social Security[edit | edit source]

Unemployment[edit | edit source]

National Security[edit | edit source]

War on drugs[edit | edit source]

National ID card[edit | edit source]



Civics Glossary

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

Act: A Bill that has been passed by Congress and become law. (Note: "Act" refers to a bill that has become law. "Act of Congress" refers to a bill passed by Congress but has not yet become law. "Act of the Senate" or "Act of the House" refers to a bill passed by one house only.)

Amendment: A change to a Constitution or to a bill.

Anti-Federalist: One who opposed the ratification of the Constitution.

Bill: Proposed legislation.

Bicameral: Having two branches of a legislature.

Bill of Rights: The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.

Checks and Balances: A system whereby the different branches of government balance each other so that one branch does not gain too much power.

Commerce: Trade or exchange of goods and money.

Concurrent Powers: Powers shared by both the federal and the state governments.

Delegate: A representative entitled to exercise powers on behalf of a government, such as a in a convention.

Equal Representation: System under which all political entities such as states receive representation in the legislature equal to each other.

Executive Branch: The branch of government in charge of enforcing and executing the laws.

Federalism: System under which a national government as well as regional governments (the states) have certain powers of legislation.

Federalist: One who supported the ratification of the Constitution.

Impeachment: An accusation made by a legislature, or part of legislature, against an executive or judicial officer. The Impeachment is only the accusation and does not indicate guilt, which is determined at a trial in the other part of the legislature.

Judicial Branch/ Judiciary: The branch of government in charge of interpreting the laws; the courts.

Judicial Review: The power of a court to rule laws unconstitutional and therefore null and void.

Legislative Branch/ Legislature: The branch of government in charge of making the laws and overseeing their enforcement.

Probable Cause: Cause (for an action such as searching a home) that has a reasonable basis.

Proportional Representation: System under which a political entity such as a state receives representation in the legislature in proportion with its population.

Quarter: To provide room and board for. Usually used in the context of boarding soldiers.

Ratification: 1. the approval of a constitution or an amendment by a state through a legislature, convention, or other method. 2. the executive act of approving a treaty. In the US, the President may ratify treaties, but only with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate.

Subpoena: A court order commanding a person or entity either to surrender documents to the court or to testify.

Veto: The rejection of a bill by the executive.


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



The Declaration of Independence

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

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security -- Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. -- The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free system of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislature, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

[Signatures Omitted]


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



The Articles of Confederation

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

Preamble[edit | edit source]

To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting.

Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

Article I[edit | edit source]

The Stile of this Confederacy shall be "The United States of America."

Article II[edit | edit source]

Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

Article III[edit | edit source]

The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.

Article IV[edit | edit source]

The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, to any other State, of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State, on the property of the United States, or either of them.

If any person guilty of, or charged with, treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall, upon demand of the Governor or executive power of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offense.

Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other State.

Article V[edit | edit source]

For the most convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislatures of each State shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each State to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead for the remainder of the year.

No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit, receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.

Each State shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the States, and while they act as members of the committee of the States.

In determining questions in the United States in Congress assembled, each State shall have one vote.

Freedom of speech and debate in Congress shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Congress, and the members of Congress shall be protected in their persons from arrests or imprisonments, during the time of their going to and from, and attendance on Congress, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.

Article VI[edit | edit source]

No State, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, shall send any embassy to, or receive any embassy from, or enter into any conference, agreement, alliance or treaty with any King, Prince or State; nor shall any person holding any office of profit or trust under the United States, or any of them, accept any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any King, Prince or foreign State; nor shall the United States in Congress assembled, or any of them, grant any title of nobility.

No two or more States shall enter into any treaty, confederation or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue.

No State shall lay any imposts or duties, which may interfere with any stipulations in treaties, entered into by the United States in Congress assembled, with any King, Prince or State, in pursuance of any treaties already proposed by Congress, to the courts of France and Spain.

No vessel of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any State, except such number only, as shall be deemed necessary by the United States in Congress assembled, for the defense of such State, or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any State in time of peace, except such number only, as in the judgement of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defense of such State; but every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of filed pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.

No State shall engage in any war without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, unless such State be actually invaded by enemies, or shall have received certain advice of a resolution being formed by some nation of Indians to invade such State, and the danger is so imminent as not to admit of a delay till the United States in Congress assembled can be consulted; nor shall any State grant commissions to any ships or vessels of war, nor letters of marque or reprisal, except it be after a declaration of war by the United States in Congress assembled, and then only against the Kingdom or State and the subjects thereof, against which war has been so declared, and under such regulations as shall be established by the United States in Congress assembled, unless such State be infested by pirates, in which case vessels of war may be fitted out for that occasion, and kept so long as the danger shall continue, or until the United States in Congress assembled shall determine otherwise.

Article VII[edit | edit source]

When land forces are raised by any State for the common defense, all officers of or under the rank of colonel, shall be appointed by the legislature of each State respectively, by whom such forces shall be raised, or in such manner as such State shall direct, and all vacancies shall be filled up by the State which first made the appointment.

Article VIII[edit | edit source]

All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States in proportion to the value of all land within each State, granted or surveyed for any person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint.

The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several States within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled.

Article IX[edit | edit source]

The United States in Congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article -- of sending and receiving ambassadors -- entering into treaties and alliances, provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made whereby the legislative power of the respective States shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners, as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever -- of establishing rules for deciding in all cases, what captures on land or water shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated -- of granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peace -- appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of captures, provided that no member of Congress shall be appointed a judge of any of the said courts.

The United States in Congress assembled shall also be the last resort on appeal in all disputes and differences now subsisting or that hereafter may arise between two or more States concerning boundary, jurisdiction or any other causes whatever; which authority shall always be exercised in the manner following. Whenever the legislative or executive authority or lawful agent of any State in controversy with another shall present a petition to Congress stating the matter in question and praying for a hearing, notice thereof shall be given by order of Congress to the legislative or executive authority of the other State in controversy, and a day assigned for the appearance of the parties by their lawful agents, who shall then be directed to appoint by joint consent, commissioners or judges to constitute a court for hearing and determining the matter in question: but if they cannot agree, Congress shall name three persons out of each of the United States, and from the list of such persons each party shall alternately strike out one, the petitioners beginning, until the number shall be reduced to thirteen; and from that number not less than seven, nor more than nine names as Congress shall direct, shall in the presence of Congress be drawn out by lot, and the persons whose names shall be so drawn or any five of them, shall be commissioners or judges, to hear and finally determine the controversy, so always as a major part of the judges who shall hear the cause shall agree in the determination: and if either party shall neglect to attend at the day appointed, without showing reasons, which Congress shall judge sufficient, or being present shall refuse to strike, the Congress shall proceed to nominate three persons out of each State, and the secretary of Congress shall strike in behalf of such party absent or refusing; and the judgement and sentence of the court to be appointed, in the manner before prescribed, shall be final and conclusive; and if any of the parties shall refuse to submit to the authority of such court, or to appear or defend their claim or cause, the court shall nevertheless proceed to pronounce sentence, or judgement, which shall in like manner be final and decisive, the judgement or sentence and other proceedings being in either case transmitted to Congress, and lodged among the acts of Congress for the security of the parties concerned: provided that every commissioner, before he sits in judgement, shall take an oath to be administered by one of the judges of the supreme or superior court of the State, where the cause shall be tried, 'well and truly to hear and determine the matter in question, according to the best of his judgement, without favor, affection or hope of reward': provided also, that no State shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States.

All controversies concerning the private right of soil claimed under different grants of two or more States, whose jurisdictions as they may respect such lands, and the States which passed such grants are adjusted, the said grants or either of them being at the same time claimed to have originated antecedent to such settlement of jurisdiction, shall on the petition of either party to the Congress of the United States, be finally determined as near as may be in the same manner as is before prescribed for deciding disputes respecting territorial jurisdiction between different States.

The United States in Congress assembled shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective States -- fixing the standards of weights and measures throughout the United States -- regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the States, provided that the legislative right of any State within its own limits be not infringed or violated -- establishing or regulating post offices from one State to another, throughout all the United States, and exacting such postage on the papers passing through the same as may be requisite to defray the expenses of the said office -- appointing all officers of the land forces, in the service of the United States, excepting regimental officers -- appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the United States -- making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations.

The United States in Congress assembled shall have authority to appoint a committee, to sit in the recess of Congress, to be denominated 'A Committee of the States', and to consist of one delegate from each State; and to appoint such other committees and civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the United States under their direction -- to appoint one of their members to preside, provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years; to ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the United States, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expenses -- to borrow money, or emit bills on the credit of the United States, transmitting every half-year to the respective States an account of the sums of money so borrowed or emitted -- to build and equip a navy -- to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each State for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such State; which requisition shall be binding, and thereupon the legislature of each State shall appoint the regimental officers, raise the men and cloath, arm and equip them in a solid- like manner, at the expense of the United States; and the officers and men so cloathed, armed and equipped shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled. But if the United States in Congress assembled shall, on consideration of circumstances judge proper that any State should not raise men, or should raise a smaller number of men than the quota thereof, such extra number shall be raised, officered, cloathed, armed and equipped in the same manner as the quota of each State, unless the legislature of such State shall judge that such extra number cannot be safely spread out in the same, in which case they shall raise, officer, cloath, arm and equip as many of such extra number as they judge can be safely spared. And the officers and men so cloathed, armed, and equipped, shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled.

The United States in Congress assembled shall never engage in a war, nor grant letters of marque or reprisal in time of peace, nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof, nor ascertain the sums and expenses necessary for the defense and welfare of the United States, or any of them, nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the United States, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war, to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander in chief of the army or navy, unless nine States assent to the same: nor shall a question on any other point, except for adjourning from day to day be determined, unless by the votes of the majority of the United States in Congress assembled.

The Congress of the United States shall have power to adjourn to any time within the year, and to any place within the United States, so that no period of adjournment be for a longer duration than the space of six months, and shall publish the journal of their proceedings monthly, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances or military operations, as in their judgement require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the delegates of each State on any question shall be entered on the journal, when it is desired by any delegates of a State, or any of them, at his or their request shall be furnished with a transcript of the said journal, except such parts as are above excepted, to lay before the legislatures of the several States.

Article X[edit | edit source]

The Committee of the States, or any nine of them, shall be authorized to execute, in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States in Congress assembled, by the consent of the nine States, shall from time to time think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated to the said Committee, for the exercise of which, by the Articles of Confederation, the voice of nine States in the Congress of the United States assembled be requisite.

Article XI[edit | edit source]

Canada acceding to this confederation, and adjoining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union; but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine States.

Article XII[edit | edit source]

All bills of credit emitted, monies borrowed, and debts contracted by, or under the authority of Congress, before the assembling of the United States, in pursuance of the present confederation, shall be deemed and considered as a charge against the United States, for payment and satisfaction whereof the said United States, and the public faith are hereby solemnly pledged.

Article XIII[edit | edit source]

Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union. Know Ye that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained: And we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said Confederation are submitted to them. And that the Articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual.

[Signatures Omitted]


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



The Constitution and Amendments

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

The Preamble[edit | edit source]

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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.

Article I[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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.

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.

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. [Superseded by Amendment XIV, section 2]

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 one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section 3[edit | edit source]

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, [Superseded by Amendment XVII, section 1] for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, 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 Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies. [Superseded by Amendment XVII, section 2]

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.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

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.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on 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.

Judgment in Cases 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.

Section 4[edit | edit source]

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 Place of Chusing Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, [Superseded by Amendment XX, section 2] unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

Section 5[edit | edit source]

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 may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.

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 Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

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.

Section 6[edit | edit source]

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. [Modified by Amendment XXVII] 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.

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 Emoluments 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.

Section 7[edit | edit source]

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become 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 likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, 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.

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 the 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.

Section 8[edit | edit source]

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts 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;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

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;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

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;

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 to 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; 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.

Section 9[edit | edit source]

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

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.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken. [Modified by Amendment XVI]

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

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.

Section 10[edit | edit source]

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing 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.

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 it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of 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.

Article II[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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:

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 Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not lie 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 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 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 Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation 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 chuse from them by Ballot the Vice-President.

The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

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.

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President, 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 Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he 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."

Section 2[edit | edit source]

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the 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 States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

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.

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.

Section 3[edit | edit source]

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.

Section 4[edit | edit source]

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.

Article III[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this 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 to which the United States shall be a Party; 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.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be 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.

The Trial 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.

Section 3[edit | edit source]

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 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.

Article IV[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

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.

No Person held to Service or 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.

Section 3[edit | edit source]

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States 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.

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of 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.

Section 4[edit | edit source]

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 Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

Article V[edit | edit source]

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 Clauses 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.

Article VI[edit | edit source]

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States 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 made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States 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.

Article VII[edit | edit source]

The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

Closing endorsement[edit | edit source]

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.

[Signatures Omitted]

Amendment I[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment II[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment III[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment IV[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment V[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment VI[edit | edit source]

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 defence.

Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment VII[edit | edit source]

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 in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment VIII[edit | edit source]

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

Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment IX[edit | edit source]

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

Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment X[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment XI[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified February 7, 1795

Amendment XII[edit | edit source]

The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-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 Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists 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 person 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 if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers 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 representation 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. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve 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 Vice-President, 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 President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

Ratified June 15, 1804

Amendment XIII[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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 & all of its territories, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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

Ratified December 6, 1865

Amendment XIV[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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 Vice-President 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.

Section 3[edit | edit source]

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and 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 an officer 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 by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4[edit | edit source]

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.

Section 5[edit | edit source]

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

Ratified July 9, 1868

Amendment XV[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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

Ratified February 3, 1870

Amendment XVI[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified February 3, 1913

Amendment XVII[edit | edit source]

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 chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

Ratified April 8, 1913

Amendment XVIII[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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 is hereby prohibited.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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

Section 3[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified January 16, 1919. Repealed by Amendment XXI December 5, 1933

Amendment XIX[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified August 18, 1920

Amendment XX[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3rd 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.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3rd day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

Section 3[edit | edit source]

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 Vice President 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.

Section 4[edit | edit source]

The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of 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.

Section 5[edit | edit source]

Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.

Section 6[edit | edit source]

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.

Ratified January 23, 1933

Amendment XXI[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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.

Section 3[edit | edit source]

The article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

Ratified December 5, 1933

Amendment XXII[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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 the 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 holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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 to the States by the Congress.

Ratified February 27, 1951

Amendment XXIII[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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

Ratified March 29, 1961

Amendment XXIV[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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

Ratified January 23, 1964

Amendment XXV[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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

Section 3[edit | edit source]

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 Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4[edit | edit source]

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 department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days 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. 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.

Ratified February 10, 1967

Amendment XXVI[edit | edit source]

Section 1[edit | edit source]

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.

Section 2[edit | edit source]

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

Ratified July 1, 1971

Amendment XXVII[edit | edit source]

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Ratified May 7, 1992


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



The Annotated Constitution of the United States

US Constitution Eagle.PNG
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


  • ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION


  • ANALYSIS OF CASES DECIDED BY THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES TO JUNE 28, 2002.
  • PREPARED BY THE CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.



  • U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
  • 77–500PS
  • WASHINGTON : 2004

Acknowlegement[edit | edit source]

For assistance in preparation of this document, special thanks is extended to

  • Randall Andrews
  • Brenda Todd
  • Andrew Mendelson
  • John Bartoli

Authorization[edit | edit source]

Resolution

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Introduction

Historical Note on Formation of the Constitution[edit | edit source]

Historical Note on Formation of the Constitution


[The Constitution begins with a Preamble. It is followed by Articles, which are divided into Sections, which are again divided into clauses.]

Preamble[edit | edit source]

  • We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, 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.[1][2]

Articles[edit | edit source]

Article One - Legislative Branch[edit | edit source]

Section 1. - Legislative Power Vested[edit | edit source]

  • All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.[3]

Section 2. - House of Representatives[edit | edit source]

  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.
  2. No person shall be a Representative who shall not
    1. have attained to the age of twenty five years, and
    2. been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not,
    3. when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.
  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.[4]
    1. 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.
    2. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative; and
    3. until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
  4. When vacancies happen in the Representation from any state, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.
  5. The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker[5] and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.[6]

Section 3. - Senate Elections[edit | edit source]

  1. 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.[7]
  2. Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three classes.
    1. 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 the third class at the expiration of the sixth year, so that one third may be chosen every second year; and
    2. if vacancies happen by resignation, or otherwise, during the recess of the legislature of any state, the executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies.
  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.[8]
  4. The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.
  5. The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore.[9], in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States
  6. (Impeachment)
    1. The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.
    2. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation.
    3. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And
    4. no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.
  7. Judgment in cases of impeachment
    1. 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:
    2. but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.[10]

Section 4. - Elections of Senators and Representatives[edit | edit source]

  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.
  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.[11]

Section 5. - Rules of House and Senate[edit | edit source]

  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 may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.
  2. Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.
  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 yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.
  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.

Section 6. - Compensation and Privileges of Members[edit | edit source]

  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.[12] 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.
  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 emoluments 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.

Section 7. - Passage of Bills[edit | edit source]

  1. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.[13]
  2. Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become 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 likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, 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.
  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 the 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.

Section 8. - Scope of Legislative Power[edit | edit source]

  1. The Congress shall have power
    1. to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises;[14]
    2. 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;[14]
    3. To borrow money on the credit of the United States;[14]
    4. To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;[15]
    5. To establish
      1. a uniform rule of naturalization,[16] and
      2. uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;[17]
    6. To
      1. coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin,[18][14] and
      2. fix the standard of weights and measures;[15]
    7. To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States[17];
    8. To establish
      1. post offices[19]
      2. and post roads;[20]
    9. 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;[21]
    10. To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;[22]
    11. To define and punish
      1. piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and
      2. offenses against the law of nations;[23]
    12. To
      1. declare war,
      2. grant letters of marque and reprisal;[24] and
      3. make rules concerning captures on land and water;
    13. To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;[25]
    14. To provide and maintain a navy;
    15. To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
    16. To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
    17. 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;
    18. 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 to 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, dockyards, and other needful buildings; And
    19. To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper[26] for
      1. carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and
      2. all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States,
      3. or in any department or officer thereof.

Section 9. - Limits on Legislative Power[edit | edit source]

  1. The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.[27]
  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.
  3. No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.[28]
  4. No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.[29]
  5. No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.
  6. No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another: nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear or pay duties in another.
  7. No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.[30]
  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.

Section 10. - Limits on States[edit | edit source]

  1. No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills 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.
  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 imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.
  3. No state shall, without the consent of 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.

Article Two - Executive Branch[edit | edit source]

Section 1. - Election, Installation, Removal[edit | edit source]

  1. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
  2. 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:
    1. 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:
    2. but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
  3. The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not lie an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves.
  4. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each;
    1. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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;
    1. and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President;
    2. and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President.
  7. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote;
    1. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice-President.[31]
  10. The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes;
    1. which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
  11. 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;
    1. 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.
  12. In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President,[32] 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 Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
  13. The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
  14. Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:
    1. "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."[33]

Section 2. - Presidential Power[edit | edit source]

  1. The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;
    1. 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,
    2. and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
  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;
    1. 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:
    2. 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.
  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.

Section 3. - State of the Union, Receive Ambassadors, Laws Faithfully Executed, Commission Officers[edit | edit source]

  1. 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;
    1. 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;
    2. he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers;
    3. he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,
    4. and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Section 4. - Impeachment[edit | edit source]

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.

Article Three - Judicial Branch[edit | edit source]

Section 1. - Judicial Power Vested[edit | edit source]

  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.
  2. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.[34]

Section 2. - Scope of Judicial Power[edit | edit source]

  1. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;
    1. to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;
    2. to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;
    3. to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;
    4. --to controversies between two or more states;
    5. between a state and citizens of another state;
    6. between citizens of different states;
    7. 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.[35]
  2. In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction.
  3. 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.
  4. The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury;
    1. and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed;
    2. but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.

Section 3. - Treason[edit | edit source]

  1. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.
  2. 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.[36]
  3. The Congress shall have 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.[37]

Article Four - The States[edit | edit source]

Section 1. - Full Faith and Credit[edit | edit source]

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

Section 2. - Privileges and Immunities, Extradiction, Fugitive Slaves[edit | edit source]

  1. The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.
  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.
  3. No person held to service or labor 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 labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.[38]

Section 3. - Admission of States[edit | edit source]

  1. New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union;
  2. but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state;
  3. 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.
  4. The Congress shall have power to dispose of 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.

Section 4. - Guarantees to States[edit | edit source]

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

Article Five - The Amendment Process[edit | edit source]

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 clauses 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.[39]

Article Six - Debts, Treaties, Oaths of Office[edit | edit source]

  1. All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
  2. This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof;
    1. and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land;
    2. and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
  3. The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution;
    1. but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Article Seven - Ratificiation Process[edit | edit source]

The ratification of the conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same.[40]

The Amendments[edit | edit source]

Bill of Rights[edit | edit source]

Amendment I - Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, Petition (1791)[edit | edit source]

  1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
  2. or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;[41]
  3. or abridging the freedom of speech,[42]
  4. or of the press;
  5. or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II - Right to Bear Arms (1791)[edit | edit source]

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.[43]

Amendment III - Quartering of Troops (1791)[edit | edit source]

  1. No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner,
  2. nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.[44]

Amendment IV - Search and Seizure (1791)[edit | edit source]

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.[45]

Amendment V - Grand Jury, Double Jeopardy, Self-Incrimination, Due Process (1791)[edit | edit source]

  1. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime,[46] unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury,[47] 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;
  2. nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb;
  3. nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,
  4. nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
  5. nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI - Criminal Prosecutions - Jury Trial, Right to Confront and to Counsel (1791)[edit | edit source]

  1. 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
  2. to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation;
  3. to be confronted with the witnesses against him;
  4. to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and
  5. to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII - Common Law Suits - Jury Trial (1791)[edit | edit source]

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 reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.[48]

Amendment VIII - Excess Bail or Fines, Cruel and Unusual Punishment (1791)[edit | edit source]

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.[49]

Amendment IX - Non-Enumerated Rights (1791)[edit | edit source]

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

Amendment X - Rights Reserved to States (1791)[edit | edit source]

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.[50]

Other Amendments[edit | edit source]

Amendment XI - Suits Against a State (1795)[edit | edit source]

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.[51]

Amendment XII - Election of President and Vice-President (1804)[edit | edit source]

  1. The electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves;
  2. they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and
  3. they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists 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;
  4. --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;
  5. --the person 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
  6. if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.
  7. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation 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.
  8. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve 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.
  9. The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed,
  10. and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President;
  11. 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.
  12. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.[52]

Amendment XIII - Abolition of Slavery (1865)[edit | edit source]

Section 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.[53]

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

Amendment XIV - Privileges and Immunities, Due Process, Equal Protection, Apportionment of Representatives, Civil War Disqualification and Debt (1868)[edit | edit source]

Section 1.

  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.
  2. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;
  3. nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
  4. nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.[54]

Section 2.

  1. 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.
  2. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President 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.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and 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 an officer 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 by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.[55]

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

Amendment XV - Rights Not to Be Denied on Account of Race (1870)[edit | edit source]

Section 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, color, or previous condition of servitude.

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

Amendment XVI - Income Tax (1913)[edit | edit source]

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.[56]

Amendment XVII - Election of Senators (1913)[edit | edit source]

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.[57] 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 chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

Amendment XVIII - Prohibition (1919)[edit | edit source]

Section 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 is hereby prohibited.[58]

Section 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.[59]

Amendment XIX - Women's Right to Vote (1920)[edit | edit source]

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.

Amendment XX - Presidential Term and Succession (1933)[edit | edit source]

Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d 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.[60]

Section 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.[61]

Section 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 Vice President 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.[62]

Section 4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of 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.

Section 5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.

Section 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.

Amendment XXI - Repeal of Prohibition (1933)[edit | edit source]

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.[63]

Section 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.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.[64]

Amendment XXII - Two Term Limit on President (1951)[edit | edit source]

Section 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 the 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 holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.[65]

Section 2. 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 to the states by the Congress.

Amendment XXIII - Presidential Vote in District of Columbia (1961)[edit | edit source]

Section 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.

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

Amendment XXIV - Poll Tax (1964)[edit | edit source]

Section 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.[66]

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

Amendment XXV - Presidential Succession (1967)[edit | edit source]

Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.[67]

Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.[68]

Section 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 Vice President as Acting President.

Section 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 department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days 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. 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.

Amendment XXVI - Right to Vote at Age 18 (1971)[edit | edit source]

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.

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

Amendment XXVII - Compensation of Members of Congress (1992)[edit | edit source]

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.[69]


References[edit | edit source]

  1. [The Preamble to the Constitution does not make any law. It merely states the reasons for which the Constitution is established.].
  2. Text
  3. Article One, Section 1 Annotations
  4. The requirement that direct taxes be apportioned among the states was removed by the Sixteenth Amendment, which authorized Direct Income Taxes.)
  5. [Note that there is no constitutional requirement that the Speaker be a Representative, though he always has.]
  6. [When trying the impeachment of Senator William Blount, the first impeachment in US history, in 1799, the Senate dismissed the case, ruling that only executive and judicial officials were subject to impeachment.]
  7. [The Seventeenth Amendment superseded the above clause, requiring that the People of a state choose the Senators.]
  8. [The Senate has the power to judge the qualifications of its members. The Senate did not enforce the thirty-year requirement on certain occasions. In 1806, 29-year-old Henry Clay took his seat, as did 28-year-old Armistead Mason in 1816, as also did 28-year old John Eaton in 1818. In 1934, Rush Holt- who was aged 29 at the time- agreed to wait six months until taking the oath. The Senate acquiesced, ruling that the thirty-year age requirement applied only to the time of oath-taking.]
  9. [Latin, for the time being.]
  10. [Executive officers who are convicted upon impeachment are automatically removed from office.
    The Senate may also disqualify such an executive officer from holding future offices.
    In the case of judicial officers, the Senate has four options.
    First, it may impose no punishment.
    Second, it may remove the judge from office.
    Third, it may disqualify the judge from holding future office.
    Fourth, it may both remove the judge and disqualify him or her from holding future office.
  11. [The Twentieth Amendment changed the reference to the first Monday in December to January 3rd.]
  12. [The Twenty-Seventh Amendment prohibits a Congressional salary change from taking effect until an election of Representatives intervenes.]
  13. [In practice, "appropriation bills," or bills granting money for government services and actions, also originate in the House. The practice originates from the United Kingdom, where the House of Commons originates all revenue or appropriation bills, and the House of Lords does not, by tradition, even amend them.]
  14. a b c d Department of the Treasury
  15. a b Department of Commerce Invalid <ref> tag; name "COMMERCE" defined multiple times with different content
  16. State Department
  17. a b Department of Justice
  18. Exchange Rates
  19. Postal Service
  20. Department of Transportation
  21. [This clause allows the United States to grant copyrights and patents.]
  22. Article I Courts. The most famous of these was the International Tribunal at Nuremburg.
  23. International Law
  24. [A letter of marque is authorization for a private individual to retaliate against another country on behalf of the issuing nation, almost always by sea and in a privateersman. A reprisal is an actual action of retaliation, but does not go as far as a declaration of war.]
  25. [The reference to "two years" is basically obsolete; appropriations are now made annually.]
  26. [The Necessary and Proper Clause, also known as the Elastic Clause, allows Congress to make laws incidental to its other powers.]
  27. [The Constitutional Convention authorized the slave trade to continue until 1808. On the first day of 1808, Congress used its Constitutional power and banned the slave trade.]
  28. [A bill of attainder is legislation that declares an individual guilty of a crime without a trial. An ex post facto law is one that retroactively makes an action illegal.]
  29. [The Sixteenth Amendment essentially repealed this clause.]
  30. [Congress annually passes Appropriations Bills that grant money for government programs.]
  31. [The Twelfth Amendment separated the Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections, while still using the same electors. Instead of making the Vice-Presidency the second prize of the Presidential election, the Electors were required by the Amendment to vote separately for each office. Also, the Amendment made changes in the manner in which the Houses of Congress chose a President or Vice-President when no one received a majority of Electoral Votes.]
  32. [The Twenty-Fifth Amendment clarified the preceding statement by stating "In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President."]
  33. [George Washington established the tradition of adding "So help me God" to the oath.]
  34. [Good Behavior has been interpreted to mean Life.]
  35. [The Eleventh Amendment prohibits a federal court from exercising jurisdiction when a person sues a state, unless that state grants consent for the same.]
  36. [The crime of Treason is the only one defined in the Constitution.]
  37. [Corruption of blood indicates punishment of one's family for one's own crimes.]
  38. [The Thirteenth Amendment made this clause moot by prohibiting slavery.]
  39. [Never has a Constitutional Convention been called to propose Amendments. Only in the case of the Twenty-First Amendment have conventions been called to ratify an Amendment.]
  40. [The states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, and New Hampshire were the first nine to ratify (in the order stated) the Constitution. After the Constitution came into effect, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island ratified.]
  41. [The prohibition on Congressional establishment of religion has been interpreted to extend to the Executive and Judicial branches also.]
  42. [Freedom of speech has been interpreted to mean freedom of expression generally as long as the rights of others are not violated.]
  43. [The "militia", in the language of the times, is distinct from the army. It means every able-bodied male in the general population, approximately age 14 to 60. The militia is given as justification for the right to keep (own) and bear (carry or use) arms (guns).
  44. [Quarter means food and housing.]
  45. [The Supreme Court has ruled that evidence found illegally shall be excluded at trial. But if the police believed that a truly defective warrant was indeed legal, then evidence seized "in good faith" need not necessarily be excluded.]
  46. ["Capital, or otherwise infamous crime" means a crime punishable by death, life in prison, or by one or more years in prison.]
  47. [A Grand Jury is a jury, usually composed of more than the traditional twelve jurors in petit juries (trial juries), that decides if there is enough evidence for a trial to occur.]
  48. [The reference to lawsuits applies to both Original Jurisdiction and Appellate Jurisdiction, but today most lawsuits are started in the State Courts, and are heard in Federal Courts only on Appeal.]
  49. [The words of the Eighth Amendment were taken directly from the seventeenth century English Bill of Rights.]
  50. [Originally, the Congress proposed Twelve Amendments rather than ten. The Ten that were ratified by the states became the Bill of Rights. One amendment was not ratified at all, while the other was ratified more than two hundered years later to become the Twenty-Seventh Amendment.]
  51. [Under the Constitution, the Supreme Court had original jurisdiction in cases involving states. However, the Congress believed that the Court had abused this power when it decided against the state of Georgia in the case of Chisolm v. Georgia. The Congress rapidly passed the Amendment to prevent federal courts from hearing cases against the states. Note that the reference to "citizens of another state" has been, by judicial interpretation, extended to citizens of the state being sued as well.]
  52. [The Twelfth Amendment changed the manner in which the Electoral College chose the President and Vice-President. See the annotation of Article II for an explanation of the original system and the changes made.
  53. [The reference to punishment for a crime does not legalize slavery. It only allows involuntary servitude as punishment.]
  54. [Before the Fourteenth Amendment, the Bill of Rights only applied to the Federal government. But the reference to "privileges or immunities of citizens" has been interpreted by the courts to extend certain parts of the Bill of Rights to the states themselves. Some Amendments, such as the Second Amendment, have not been "incorporated," or extended to the states.]
  55. [Amendment XIV, Section 4, essentially provides that the debt of the Union would be paid by the government, but Confederate debts would not be paid by either the federal or the state governments.]
  56. [Prior to this Amendment, the Congress had to apportion, or divide, taxes between the states based on the populations of the states. Under this Amendment, that requirement was removed and Income Taxes were legalized.]
  57. [This Amendment provided that the People, rather than the Legislature, of the states would choose the Senate.]
  58. [The Eighteenth Amendment commenced the Prohibition era.]
  59. [The Eighteenth Amendment set a precedent for future Amendments, setting a seven-year limit for ratification by the states.]
  60. [Prior to the Twentieth Amendment, terms commenced in March. However, this created the problem of lame ducks- Presidents who had not won reelection in November but were in office for four more months with little popular mandate to make important decisions.]
  61. [The Constitution fixed the meeting day for Congress in December. This Section provides that Congress meets earlier- not later, as is often assumed.]
  62. [Amendment XXV made some modifications to Section 3).]
  63. [The Twenty-First Amendment is the only Amendment to repeal another Amendment. It ended the era of Prohibition.]
  64. [The Twenty-First Amendment is the only Amendment that was ratified by conventions, rather than legislatures, in the states.]
  65. [The Twenty-Second Amendment was passed after Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for President (and won) four times, violating the past practice set by George Washington that Presidents run for only two terms.]
  66. [Southern states utilized the poll tax to bar poor African-Americans from voting. The laws' direct provisions as well as their loopholes often provided exemptions to Caucasians.]
  67. [This was still the situation prior to the ratification of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, but the situation was murky due to the Constitution's lack of clarity similar to that provided by Section 1.]
  68. [This Section was utilized twice in the 1970's. When Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned during the Watergate Controversy, President Richard Nixon nominated, and Congress confirmed, Gerald Ford as Vice President. When Nixon resigned and he became President, Ford nominated and Congress confirmed Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President. Since then, Section 2 has not been utilized.]
  69. [Amendment XXVII was proposed at the same time as the Bill of Rights, but was not ratified until over two hundered years after proposition.]
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



Authors

This book, US Constitution and Government, was initiated and written by Lord Emsworth, with slight contributions by Karl Wick and Tamu Schwoeffermann. Although the content of the book is comprehensive, it still needs to be edited and revised.

The original version of the book was finished on September 30, 2003, making it the first "finished" Wikibook on the site.

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