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Constitution of the United States
A written document executed by representatives of the people of the United States as the absolute rule of action and decision for all branches and officers of the government, and with which all subsequent laws and ordinances must be in accordance unless it has been changed by a constitutional amendment by the authority that created it.
For over 200 years, the Constitution of the United States has served as the foundation for U.S. government. Created in 1787, the U.S. Constitution establishes and defines the basic outlines of a national government that joins the states in an effective political union. The U.S. Constitution has been and remains one of the most enduring political agreements in the history of the world. Throughout its existence, it has served as an inspiring example of the potential of constitutional government, causing many other countries and peoples to emulate its provisions.
According to Article VI of the Constitution, the U.S. Constitution is "the supreme Law of the Land." All other laws and judicial decisions are subject to its mandates. The Constitution therefore has higher authority than all other laws in the nation, including statutes and laws passed by Congress and state legislatures. Unlike those other laws, the Constitution may be changed, or amended, only in special ways that reflect its character as a demonstration of the people's will.
The original document of the U.S. Constitution is held at the National Archives, in Washington, D.C.
Constitutional Convention of 1787
The Constitutional Convention of 1787 is a high point in the history of the United States. This remarkable assemblage of men, meeting in Philadelphia between May 23 and September 17, 1787, created the document that has given the United States one of the most stable and admired constitutional democracies in the history of the world.
55 delegates from 12 states attended various parts of the convention. Drawn from the educated and wealthy elite of the country, they included such luminaries as George Washington, the commander of American forces in the War of Independence, who presided over the convention, and Benjamin Franklin, at 81, the oldest delegate and the country's most famous statesman. A majority of the delegates were lawyers, and many, such as James Madison, were wealthy landowners. Many notable leaders of the time, however, including Thomas Jefferson, who was in France, and Patrick Henry, did not attend.
The meetings of the convention were closed to the public and to the press. Thus, behind closed doors, the delegates hammered out the eventual form of U.S. government. The agreements reached during the convention exemplified the values of constitutional government. In an atmosphere that combined competitive, lively debate with tolerance and respect for differences of opinion, the delegates reached vital compromises on matters that threatened to divide the still loosely connected union of states. Many different factions opposed one another—small states versus large states, farmers versus businesspeople, North versus South, and slave states versus nonslave states.
The Constitutional Convention occurred in three separate phases. The first, from May 23 to July 26, created the basic features of the national government, including its division into legislative, executive, and judicial branches. During this phase, delegates also arrived at one important compromise between the interests of large and small states. That compromise created a bicameral, or two-chamber, legislature, composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate. During the second phase of the convention, from July 27 to August 6, the five-man Committee of Detail created a rough draft of the Constitution. In the third phase, which lasted from August 6 to September 6, the delegates debated remaining sticking points, particularly relating to the Executive Branch and the means of electing a president. Eventually, they settled on the Electoral College suggested by Benjamin Franklin.
On September 17, 39 of the 42 delegates present signed the Constitution. Gouverneur Morris, coauthor of the New York State Constitution and a key delegate, summed up the significance of the Constitution that the convention had created when, after affixing his signature to it, he uttered these words: "The moment this plan goes forth, all other considerations will be laid aside and the great question will be: Shall there be a national government or not? And this must take place or a general anarchy will be the alternative."
Rossiter, Clinton. 1966. 1787: The Grand Convention. Reprint, New York: Norton, 1987.
Scott, James Brown. 2001. James Madison's Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 and their Relation to a More Perfect Society of Nations. Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange.
History of the Constitution
When the United States declared itself a country separate from Great Britain in 1776, it did not have a written constitution. Instead, the 13 former colonies each had their own sovereignty and separate bodies of law. How the newly formed United States would act as one nation remained uncertain and undefined. The Continental Congress, the first national legislative body of the new nation, attempted to address this state of affairs by drafting the nation's first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, which were ratified in 1781, the same year that hostilities in the Revolutionary War against Britain came to an end at Yorktown, Virginia.
The Articles of Confederation proved an ineffective national constitution. That document did not provide for a strong federal, or central, government and allowed each state its own "sovereignty, freedom and independence" (art. II). It also did not provide the federal government power to tax or regulate commerce.
Federalists versus Anti-Federalists
After the Constitution was signed and approved by delegates of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, it had to be ratified by the states. As determined by Article VII of the Constitution, ratification required the approval of nine special state conventions. States that did not ratify the Constitution would not be considered a part of the Union and would be separate countries.
Passage of the Constitution by the states was by no means certain in 1787. Indeed, many people at that time opposed the creation of a federal, or national, government that would have power over the states. These people were called Anti-Federalists. They included primarily farmers and tradesmen and were less likely to be a part of the wealthy elite than were members of their opposition, who called themselves Federalists. The Anti-Federalists believed that each state should have a sovereign, independent government. Their leaders included some of the most influential figures in the nation, including Patrick Henry and George Mason, leading national figures during the Revolutionary War period. Many Anti-Federalists were local politicians who feared losing power should the Constitution be ratified. As one member of their opposition, edmund randolph, said, these politicians "will not cherish the great oak which is to reduce them to paltry shrubs."
The Federalists favored the creation of a strong federal government that would more closely unite the states as one large, continental nation. They tended to come from the wealthier class of merchants and plantation owners. Federalists had been instrumental in the creation of the Constitution, arguing that it was a necessary improvement on the Articles of Confederation, the country's first attempt at unifying the states in a national political arrangement. Leaders among the Federalists included two men who helped develop the Constitution, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, and two national heroes whose support would greatly improve the Federalists' prospects for winning, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
Between September 17, 1787, the day the Constitution was signed by the Constitutional Convention, and May 29, 1790, the day Rhode Island became the thirteenth and last state to ratify the Constitution, the Federalists and Anti-Federalists engaged in a fierce national debate on the merits of the Constitution. This debate occurred in meeting halls, on streets, and on the printed page. Both sides in the argument had a considerable following. Many of the questions raised remain with us today: What is the best form of government? What rights must the government protect? Which government powers should be granted to the states, and which to the federal government?
The Anti-Federalists The Anti-Federalists found many problems in the Constitution. They argued that the document would give the country an entirely new and untested form of government. They saw no sense in throwing out the existing government. Instead, they believed that the Federalists had over-stated the current problems of the country. They also maintained that the Framers of the Constitution had met as an elitist group under a veil of secrecy and had violated the provisions of the Articles of Confederation in the means selected for ratification of the Constitution.
In making their arguments, the Anti-Federalists often relied on the rhetoric of the Revolutionary War era, which stressed the virtues of local rule and associated centralized power with a tyrannical monarch. Thus, the Anti-Federalists frequently claimed that the Constitution represented a step away from the democratic goals of the American Revolution and toward the twin evils of monarchy and aristocracy. The Anti-Federalists feared that the Constitution gave the president too much power and that the proposed Congress would be too aristocratic in nature, with too few representatives for too many people. They also criticized the Constitution for its lack of a Bill of Rights of the kind that had been passed in England in 1689 to establish and guarantee certain rights of Parliament and of the English people against the king. Moreover, the Anti-Federalists argued that the Constitution would spell an end to all forms of self-rule in the states.
Many Anti-Federalists believed in a type of government that has been described as agrarian republicanism. Such a government is centered on a society of landowning farmers who participate in local politics. Thomas Jefferson agreed with this view. He felt that the virtues of democratic freedom were best nurtured in an agrarian, or agricultural, society, and that with increasing urbanization, commercialization, and centralization of power would come a decline in political society and eventual tyranny. Unlike the Anti-Federalists, however, Jefferson supported the Constitution, although rather reluctantly. He was not strongly identified with the Federalist position and would eventually oppose the Federalists as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party.
The Anti-Federalists also shared the feeling that so large a country as the United States could not possibly be controlled by one national government. One Pennsylvania Anti-Federalist, who signed his articles "Centinel," declared,
It is the opinion of the greatest writers, that a very extensive country cannot be governed on democratical principles, on any other plan than a confederation of a number of small republics, possessing all the powers of internal government, but united in the management of their foreign and general concerns.
… [A]nything short of despotism could not bind so great a country under one government.
Although the Anti-Federalists were united in their opposition to the Constitution, they did not agree on what form of government made the best alternative to it. Some still believed that the Articles of Confederation could be amended in such a way that they would provide a workable confederation. Some wanted the Union to break up and re-form into three or four different confederacies. Others were even ready to accept the Constitution if it were amended in such a way that the rights of citizens and states would be more fully protected.
The Federalists The Federalists focused their arguments on the inadequacies of national government under the Articles of Confederation and on the benefits of national government as formed by the Constitution. They were also much more favorably disposed toward commerce than were the Anti-Federalists, and they argued that a strong central government would foster the commercial growth of the new country. Moreover, the Federalist vision of society was more pluralistic than the Anti-Federalist vision. That is, the Federalists did not see society as made up principally of farmers, as did the Anti-Federalists, but instead viewed it as comprising many different and competing interests and groups, none of which would be completely dominant in a federalist system of government. For this reason, many later scholars have argued that the Federalists were more aware of the economic and social changes then transforming American society.
The most famous example of Federalist doctrine is The Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Published in New York newspapers and in two bound volumes distributed during the ratification debate, these essays were signed with the pseudonym Publius, taken from Publius Valerius Poplicola, a man who reputedly saved the ancient Roman republic. The Federalist Papers is an important American contribution to political philosophy and remains a classic today. It is also a great and authoritative commentary on the Constitution.
The Federalist Papers communicates the central ideas of the Federalists: the benefits of a Union between the states; the problems with the confederation as it stood at the time; the importance of an energetic, effective federal government; and a defense of the republicanism of the proposed Constitution. The Federalist Papers makes a persuasive case for the necessity of federal government in preserving order and securing the liberty of a large republic. In doing so, it asserts that a weak union of the states will make the country more vulnerable to internal and external dissension, including civil war and invasion from foreign powers.
One of the most famous of its essays is The Federalist, number 10, by James Madison. In it, Madison addressed the issue of whether or not the republican government created by the Constitution can protect the liberties of its citizens. The problem that Madison saw as most destructive of popular government is what he called faction. A faction, according to Madison, is "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." Factions, Madison added, become especially dangerous when they form a majority of the population.
Madison divided popular government into two types, democratic and republican, and preferred the latter. In a democracy, all citizens participate directly in the decisions of government. In a republic, representatives elected by the people make the decisions of government.
In his intricate argument in The Federalist, number 10, Madison contended that a republican government of the kind envisioned by the U.S. Constitution can best solve the problem of faction not by "removing its causes"—which only tyranny can do—but by "controlling its effects." Madison proposed that elected representatives, as opposed to the people as a whole, will be more disposed to consider the national interest ahead of a particular factional interest. He also argued that the nature of an "extensive," or large, republic such as the United States will naturally frustrate the ability of a single faction to advance its own interests ahead of the interests of other citizens. With the huge variety of parties and interests in an extended republic, it becomes "less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens." Thus, Madison, in contrast to the Anti-Federalists, saw the large size of the United States as a help rather than a hindrance to the cause of liberty.
This is only one of the many points that The Federalist Papers makes in favor of the Constitution. However, as brilliant and carefully reasoned as The Federalist Papers may be, it probably did not greatly sway opinion toward ratification of the Constitution. The politics of ratification were instead influenced most by direct, face-to-face contact and negotiation. Nevertheless, The Federalist Papers aided the Constitution's cause by giving the Constitution's adherents ideas with which to counter their opposition.
The outcome Ultimately, the ratification provisions of Article VII of the Constitution, created by the Federalists themselves, were one of the best allies the Federalists had in their attempt to ratify the Constitution. After the Constitution had been created at the Constitutional Convention, Federalist leaders quickly returned to their states to elect Federalist delegates to the state conventions. The Anti-Federalists were not able to muster enough votes in response, though in several states, they nearly defeated the Federalists. By 1790, all thirteen states had ratified the document, giving the Federalists and their Constitution a great victory.
The Anti-Federalist outcry was not without its effects, however. By 1791, in response to Anti-Federalist sentiments, state legislatures voted to add the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Those ten amendments are also called the Bill of Rights, and they have become an important part of the Constitution and its heritage of liberty.
Frohnen, Bruce, ed. 1999. The Anti-Federalists: Selected Writings and Speeches. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Pub.
Wills, Garry. 2001. Explaining America: The Federalist. New York: Penguin Books.
The problems of a weak federal government with insufficient funds for operation became apparent as a number of problems developed in the 1780s: harmful economic warfare between states, inadequate commercial treaties with foreign countries, and the inability to raise an army to oppose British troops in the Northwest Territory. Particularly disturbing for many critics of the Confederation was the lack of a federal response to Shays's Rebellion in 1786–87, an armed uprising by debtor farmers in western Massachusetts directed against courts of law. George Washington reacted to this lack of response with words that expressed his strong desire for a better union of the states:
I am mortified beyond expression when I view the clouds that have spread over the brightest morn that ever dawned upon any country. You talk of employing influence to appease the present tumults in Massachusetts. Influence is no government. Let us have a government by which our lives, liberties and properties will be secured; or let us know the worst at once.
Seeking to address the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress called for the Constitutional Convention to create a better basis for union between the states. The convention began in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787, with the original intention of amending the Articles of Confederation. However, the delegates—including benjamin franklin, alexander hamilton, james madison, and George Washington—soon planned an entirely new constitution.
Fifty-five delegates representing 12 states (all but Rhode Island) discussed different plans for a federal government. They agreed to create a government consisting of three separate branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—with checks and balances to keep any one branch from becoming too powerful. However, they dis-agreed strongly over particulars.
For example, two plans for representation in a national legislature competed for the loyalty of delegates. The so-called Virginia Plan, presented by edmund randolph and designed by James Madison, called for a bicameral, or two-house, legislature. Representation in the lower house would be proportional to population, and representation in the upper house would be elected by the lower house. Delegates from small states felt that such a plan would give too much power to large states. They favored the New Jersey Plan, which called for a unicameral legislature with equal representation to each state. Delegates settled the issue by voting for a compromise plan—called the Great Compromise, or the Connecticut Compromise—which established a Senate that gave each state two representatives and a House of Representatives that granted each state a number of representatives proportional to its population.
On September 17, 1787, 39 delegates signed the completed Constitution. In subsequent months, the document went before each of the states for ratification. The ratification process was accompanied by a spirited debate on the merits of the Constitution. The Federalists, on one side of the debate, supported ratification. Federalist leaders Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison argued eloquently on behalf of the Constitution in a series of newspaper essays that were published as The Federalist papers. Those opposed to the Constitution were called Anti-Federalists.
The ratification process, as contained in Article VII of the Constitution, required that nine of the 13 states approve the Constitution in special conventions. Within ten months after the Constitution was completed, ten states had ratified it. Rhode Island was the last of the 13 states to ratify the Constitution, on May 29, 1790, officially making the Constitution the highest law of the land.
Contents of the Constitution
The Constitution is divided into seven articles, or divisions, each addressing a different topic. Each article is divided into sections. The Constitution begins with a preamble that states the purpose of the document and the source of its power:
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. The Preamble is not strictly considered a part of the Constitution and is not legally binding on issues relating to either government power or private right (Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11, 25 S. Ct. 358, 49 L. Ed. 643 ).
Article I Article I of the Constitution deals with the legislative branch of government. It establishes the bicameral Congress, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives, and it delineates the means by which Congressional members shall be elected, the length of their terms, and the requirements for membership, including age. It also sets forth guidelines for legislative procedure, including a requirement that bills of revenue, or taxation, must originate in the House; requirements for the process by which bills pass from Congress to the president; and the procedures in case of presidential Veto, or refusal to sign a bill into law.
Article I, Section 2, prescribes for the means of Apportionment, or the method by which representatives are allocated to the states. Because political power would inevitably flow to the states with the most congressional representatives, this topic was controversial at the time of the framing of the Constitution. Whereas each state receives two votes in the Senate, the number of representatives each state receives in the House is determined by an enumeration, or census, to be conducted every ten years.
According to this same section, a state's population is to "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." Thus, an indentured servant was counted as a whole person, and an African American slave was counted as only three-fifths of a person. This last provision arose out of differences between slave and nonslave states. Counting slaves as equal persons would have given southern states a greater number of representatives and more power in Congress. Northern states vigorously opposed such a scheme, and the resulting compromise was called the Three-fifths Compromise.
Article I, Section 8, gives Congress some of its delegated powers, many of them crucial powers that had been denied to the Congress of the Confederation. These include the powers to "lay and collect Taxes," "borrow Money," "coin Money," "establish Post Offices," "declare War," "raise and support Armies," "provide and maintain a Navy," and "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution" all the other powers. This last clause is called the Necessary and Proper Clause and has been used to justify later expansion of congressional activity not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. The clause has also been called the elastic clause or implied powers clause. Article I, Section 8, also gives Congress the power to "regulate Commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." This is called the Commerce Clause. And Article I, Section 8, gives Congress power over a district to "become the Seat of the Government of the United States," later established as the District of Columbia, or Washington, D.C.
Article I, Section 9, limits congressional powers, forbidding the passage of laws prohibiting the "Migration or Importation" of persons before the year 1808. This provision was designed as a concession to slaveholding states, ensuring that the practice of Slavery would not be challenged for at least 20 years. Section 9 also prohibits Congress from passing any ex post facto, or retroactive, laws, and from granting any "Title of Nobility."
Article I, Section 10, limits the powers of the states, prohibiting, for example, the states to enter into foreign treaties and coin money.
Article II Article II concerns the Executive Branch, or the presidency. Section 1 establishes the Electoral College as the means of electing the president, identifies the requirements for holding presidential office, and outlines the procedure in case a president is removed from office or dies. It also contains the oath that the president must take before entering the office, which explicitly requires that the president support the Constitution: "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."
Article II, Section 2, names the president as commander in chief of the armed forces. It also gives the president the power to grant pardons or reprieves; make treaties with foreign powers, subject to approval by the Senate; and appoint ambassadors and Supreme Court justices.
Article II, Section 4, allows for removal and Impeachment of the president and "all civil Officers of the United States" in cases of conviction for "Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Article III Article III establishes the Supreme Court of the United States as the highest judicial power. Section 2 defines the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary. Section 3 defines and limits prosecution for Treason. The power of Judicial Review, whereby the Supreme Court may declare laws and regulations of government to be unconstitutional, is not explicitly declared in the Constitution and was not established by the Supreme Court until the case of marbury v. madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 2 L. Ed. 60 (1803).Article IV Article IV defines the relations between the states. It requires each state to give "full Faith and Credit" to the laws of the other states; establishes that citizens are entitled to the same "Privileges and Immunities," or liberties and rights, as citizens in every other state; provides for Extradition between states of persons charged with crimes; provides for and limits the admission of new states; gives Congress full power over U.S. territories that are not yet states; and guarantees each state "a Republican Form of Government" and protection against invasion or "domestic Violence."
Article V Article V sets forth a two-step procedure for amending the Constitution: proposal of amendments, followed by ratification. Amendments may be proposed in two ways: by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or by a special convention called by two-thirds of the state legislatures. Amendments are ratified by one of two methods, determined by Congress: approval of three-fourths of the state legislatures or approval of three-fourths of special state conventions.
Article VI Article VI declares the Constitution and the laws and treaties made by the U.S. government under its authority to be "the supreme Law of the Land." This provision is called the Supremacy Clause. Article VI also requires that all judges in every state be subject to the provisions of the Constitution, that all state and federal officeholders swear an oath supporting the Constitution, and that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office" of the United States.
Amendments The Constitution has been amended 26 times. The first ten amendments were ratified in 1791 and are called the Bill of Rights.
Principles of the Constitution
Separation of powers refers to the division of power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Checks and balances refers to a system whereby each branch of government retains some of the powers of the other branches, which it may use to control other branches. Thus, the president may veto bills passed by Congress, the Senate may vote down presidential appointments, and the Supreme Court may strike down laws approved by Congress or regulations put forth by the executive. Such actions keep the separate branches of government in balance and prevent any one of them from becoming too powerful.
The inclusion of the concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances in the Constitution owes much to James Madison, who has been called the Father of the Constitution. The U.S. system of government has often been referred to as the Madisonian Model. According to Madison, a system in which the different elements of government competed against one another, each preventing the other from becoming too powerful, was the best system to prevent the rise of a tyrannical government that would abuse the rights of the people. As he wrote in The Federalist, No. 51:
In framing a government, … the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught the necessity of auxiliary precautions. The Constitution, with its separation of powers and checks and balances, provided just such "auxiliary precautions" to be used in controlling government.
The Constitution is also guided by the concept of federalism in the way that it constructs the U.S. government. Federalism is a system in which smaller political entities—such as states, counties, cities, and localities—are united in a larger political organization. Federalism intends to protect the liberties of people in these smaller political units by providing them with a great degree of freedom in governing themselves. The federal, or larger, government is then a limited government that cedes many decision-making responsibilities—including, for example, the creation of most criminal and civil laws, municipal codes, regulations for administering school districts, and the like—to states and localities, while leaving itself other responsibilities. In short, federalism is a partnership in which a central government shares authority and power with regional or local governments.
The U.S. Constitution gives the federal government—made up of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—power to make decisions regarding such issues as war, national defense, and trade with foreign countries. The federal government also retains the right to overrule laws or decisions of lower units of government when they are in violation of the Constitution. Thus, for example, the federal government took on responsibilities in the over-sight of local school districts after the Supreme Court, in brown v. board of education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954), ruled that segregating children in different public schools by race violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which says, "No State shall … deny to any person … the equal protection of the laws."
Black, Eric. 1988. Our Constitution: The Myth That Binds Us. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.
Browne, Ray B., and Glenn J. Browne. 1986. Laws of Our Fathers: Popular Culture and the U.S. Constitution. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green Univ. Press.
Corwin, Edward S. 1978. The Constitution and What It Means Today. 14th ed. Rev. Harold W. Chase and Craig R. Ducat. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press.
Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, and John Jay. 1787– 88. The Federalist Papers. Ed. Clinton Rossiter. Reprint, New York: New American Library of World Literature, 1961.
Harrigan, John J. 1984. Politics and the American Future. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.
Levy, Michael B. 1982. Political Thought in America: An Anthology. Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press.
Marshall, Burke, ed. 1987. A Workable Government?: The Constitution after 200 Years. New York: Norton.
Maxwell, James A., ed. 1982. You and Your Rights. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest.
McGuire, Robert A. 2003. To Form a More Perfect Union: A New Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution. Oxford, New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
Rawle, William. 2003. A View of the Constitution of the United States of America. 2d ed. Clark, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange.
Story, Joseph. 2001. Constitution of the United States: With a Preliminary Review of the Constitutional History of the Colonies and States, Before the Adoption of the Constitution Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange.
Congress of the United States; "Constitution of the United States" (Appendix, Primary Document); Constitutional Amendment; Constitutional Law; Federalist Papers; Full Faith and Credit Clause; Presidential Powers.
Constitution of the United States
The U.S. Constitution was drafted in 1787 in Philadelphia by delegates to the constitutional convention. The delegates decided soon after their arrival that the Articles of Confederation could not be saved through amendment and that an entirely new constitution should be written to replace it. The document that emerged from the convention was the product of a series of compromises.
Once the Constitution had been offered to the states for ratification, critics opposed it on several grounds. Most importantly, they argued that the Constitution created an overly powerful central government that could abuse the rights of citizens and criticized the Framers for failing to include a bill of rights. To win over the opposition, the supporters of the Constitution agreed that the enactment of a bill of rights should be among the business of the first Congress. By June 21, 1788, the requisite nine states had ratified the Constitution. Virginia and New York ratified it a few days later, while North Carolina did so in 1789 and Rhode Island agreed to the Constitution in 1790.
Since the Constitution went into effect in 1789, only twenty-seven amendments have been added to correct deficiencies in the original document or to adapt it to changing needs and principles.
Constitution of the United States
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.
Section 1. 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. 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.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. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumerations 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. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof,2 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.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.
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 chuse 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. 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 chusing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December,4 unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.
Section 5. 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 Behaviour, 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.
Source: The United States Government Manual.
1 Provisions that have been changed by amendments or other legislation or have become obsolete have been printed in italic type. The Sixteenth Amendment overturned the provision on direct taxes. The provision on apportionment was overturned by the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, and by the Fourteenth Amendment, which stipulated that all persons excluding Indians should be counted. Since 1940 Indians have also been counted.
2 Changed by the Seventeenth Amendment.
3 Modified by the Seventeenth Amendment.
4 Changed by the Twentieth Amendment, Section 2, to January 3.
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. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
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 encreased 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. 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. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence 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;5
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 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 Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal,6 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;
5 Formal treaty arrangements with the Indians were abandoned after 1871.
6 The Declaration of Paris in 1856 and other treaties have outlawed letters of marque and reprisal.
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,7 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. 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.8
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. 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 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.
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.
Section 1. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows
7 Modified by the District of Columbia Home Rule Act of 1973.
8 Changed by the Sixteenth Amendment which permits a Federal income tax, and the Twenty-fourth Amendment, which prohibits Federal pollution.
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 be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of 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.9
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.10
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased 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. 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 Offences 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.
9 Modified by the Twelfth and Twenty-third Amendments.
10 Clarified by the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 and by the Twenty-fifth Amendment.
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. 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. 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.
Section 1. The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.
Section 2. 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;11—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. 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.
Section 1. Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
Section 2. 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 of Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.12
11 Changed by the Eleventh Amendment.
12 Made obsolete by the Thirteenth Amendment.
Section 3. New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.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. 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 Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.
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.
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.
The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.
Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,
G° Washington—Presidt and deputy from Virginia
|New Hampshire||John Langdon|
|Connecticut||Wm Saml Johnson|
|New York||Alexander Hamilton|
|New Jersey||Wil: Livingston|
|Gunning Bedford jun|
|Dan of St Thos. Jenifer|
|James Madison Jr.|
|North Carolina||Wm Blount|
|Richd Dobbs Spaight.|
|South Carolina||J. Rutledge|
|Charles Cotesworth Pinckney|
(The first ten amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the "Bill of Rights.")
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 offence 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.
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.
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.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
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 February 7, 1795)
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 July 27, 1804)
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 December 6, 1865)
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.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
(Ratified July 9, 1868)
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and 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. 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. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
(Ratified February 3, 1870)
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.
(Ratified February 3, 1913)
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 April 8, 1913)
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 January 16, 1919. Repealed December 5, 1933, by Amendment 21.)
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.
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.
(Ratified August 18, 1920)
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 January 23, 1933)
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Ratified December 5, 1933)
Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
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.
(Ratified February 27, 1951)
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.
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.
(Ratified March 29, 1961)
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.
(Ratified January 23, 1964)
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.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
(Ratified February 10, 1967)
Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.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.
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.
(Ratified July 1, 1971)
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
(Ratified May 7, 1992)
No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.