Tag: government (page 2 of 4)

The Constitution of the United States: Amendments 18-20

Amendment 18:

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.

Passed by Congress December 18, 1917. Ratified January 16, 1919. Repealed by amendment 21.

As someone who doesn’t drink I’ve always had an odd curiosity about this amendment. Clearly this didn’t stop people from making and transporting liquor, but imagine what the penalty for drunk driving would be today if this was still around :-)

Honestly I’ve always been surprised that this ever passed in the first place. In so many places drinking liquor is a cultural norm, I don’t know how they managed to get the votes necessary to pass it.

Amendment 19:

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.

Passed by Congress June 4, 1919. Ratified August 18, 1920.

Here again the ranks of potential voters in the U.S. was expanded. Previously individual states had granted women the right to vote and some areas prior to being states allowed women to vote as well. Utah has a particularly usual history in the area in that the Territorial Legislature has granted women the right to vote, but then the federal government specifically repealed it in the Edmunds–Tucker Act. After Utah became a state they adopted a constitution that restored this right.

Amendment 20:

Section 1.
The terms of the President and the 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 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.

Passed by Congress March 2, 1932. Ratified January 23, 1933. Article I, section 4, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of this amendment. In addition, a portion of the 12th amendment was superseded by section 3.

I wonder why the new members of Congress start their job before the President and Vice-President?

Other Constitution posts.

The Constitution of the United States: Amendments 14-17

Amendment 14:

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,1 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 the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

1- Changed by section 1 of the 26th amendment.

Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868. Article I, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of the 14th amendment.

Who was considered to the be a natural born U.S. citizen was expanded some what. Now it was limited to just the states, but any place under U.S. jurisdiction. Section 4 is interesting, we basically declared certain debts null and void.

Amendment 15:

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 the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.

You could no longer prevent some one from voting just because they were a different race, color or previously a slave.

Amendment 16:

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.

Passed by Congress July 2, 1909. Ratified February 3, 1913. Article I, section 9, of the Constitution was modified by amendment 16.

I don’t see how folks who claim that the government isn’t allowed to collect income tax reconcile their argument with the 16th Amendment.

Amendment 17:

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.

Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913. Article I, section 3, of the Constitution was modified by the 17th amendment.

The voting on of Senators is changed from State Legislatures to the people. That seems like a good move, although I was surprised to find out this change didn’t happen until the early 1900s.

Other Constitution posts.

The Constitution of the United States: Amendments 11-13

Amendment 11:

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.

Passed by Congress March 4, 1794. Ratified February 7, 1795. Article III, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by amendment 11.

Amendment 12:

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 case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. --]1 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.

1- Superseded by section 3 of the 20th amendment.

Passed by Congress December 9, 1803. Ratified June 15, 1804. A portion of Article II, section 1 of the Constitution was superseded by the 12th amendment.

Amendment 13:

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.

Passed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865. A portion of Article IV, section 2, of the Constitution was superseded by the 13th amendment.

Slavery is formally forbidden in the United States. Previously Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but it wasn’t until the 13th Amendment that slavery was outlawed in all states.

Other Constitution posts.

The Constitution of the United States: The Bill of Rights

The first 10 Amendments to the Constitution are known as The Bill of Rights and were ratified on December 15, 1791.

The Preamble to The Bill of Rights:

The Preamble to The Bill of Rights

Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution

I didn’t even know The Bill of Rights had a preamble.

Amendment I:

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.

No national religion allowed and no laws preventing your ability to practice your religion. Free speech and press are not to be taken away. Folks can get together in groups and also have the right to appeal to the government for problems. No doubt entire books have been written on the subject of the first amendment. I’m still in awe how less than 50 words has been the basis for so many texts, arguments and law suits.

Amendment II:

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.

Until I read the actual text I didn’t realize how potentially confusing the ‘right to bear arms’ could be. A few places have tried to out right ban gun ownership, to my knowledge none of them have successfully held up in court. That said the courts have certainly allowed restrictions on gun owners.

Amendment III:

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.

I wonder when the last time this came into play. I don’t recall the last time a soldier attempted to stay in a private residence, presumably by force.

Amendment IV:

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.

This is an area that has had trouble as technology goes forward. Is my email part of my ‘papers, and effects’? What about my DNA? When spying on Internet traffic how do we ensure that only the ‘persons or things to be seized’ are looked at?

Amendment V:

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.

‘I take the fifth’ is a well known phrase, which comes from the ‘nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself’ clause of this amendment. Interesting that to note that it doesn’t say under what conditions private property can be taken, only that it must be donw in the ‘due process of law’ and with ‘just compensation’.

Amendment VI:

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.

Modern communication technology has made getting an ‘impartial jury’ a bit harder. With the tremendous amount of news coverage available today it can be hard not to be tainted in one way or another about high profile cases.

Amendment VII:

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.

Interesting that they pin and exact amount here. With inflation over the decades pretty much every issue would involve an amount greater than $20.

Amendment VIII:

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

I confess to not fully understanding how bail works beyond simply being a way for you to not sit in jail while your trial is pending. In the area of ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ I suspect entire books have been written. It does seem to imply that we try to be decent people even when dealing with those who have done horrible things.

Amendment IX:

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

This looks like an attempt to create a default condition for laws and rights. Just because it’s not specifically mentioned as a right in the Constitution should not be seen as being illegal.

Amendment X:

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.

This takes the previous amendment on step further. States essentially get to be semi-sovereign in establishing their own rights/laws as long as they don’t try to supersede the Constitution.

Other Constitution posts.

The 44th President of the United States: Barack Obama

Today we had that quintessential American process, the transition of power from one President to another. By taking the oath of office today Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States.

In my life time there have been many remarkable events, though some times it has been hard to recognize the potential historical impact while in the moment. With the first black President starting office today it’s hard to ignore the sense of history in the making.

I say this not because I’m a raging Democrat (I’m not) or that I agree with all of President Obama’s policies (I don’t). I say this because of a hope that this says something about our culture and society. That the grade school philosophy that in this country anyone can ascend to the highest office of government is more than just hollow words, it is indeed a statement of fact.

The Constitution of the United States: Article VII

Article VII:

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

The Word, “the,” being interlined between the seventh and eighth Lines of the first Page, the Word “Thirty” being partly written on an Erazure in the fifteenth Line of the first Page, The Words “is tried” being interlined between the thirty second and thirty third Lines of the first Page and the Word “the” being interlined between the forty third and forty fourth Lines of the second Page.

Attest William Jackson Secretary

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,

To get things going it took 9 states to ratify the new Constitution. But that second paragraph, I really have no idea what the point of that is.

Go check out the Constitution transcript, they’ve got links to information about each of the signers to the document. There were also delegates to the convention that did not sign the new Constitution, there’s links to more information about them on the Founding Fathers page.

Other Constitution posts.

The Constitution of the United States: Article VI

Article VI:

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.

When the Articles of Confederation ceased to be the ruling document of the land we agreed to still pay our debts.

Interesting language about treaties in the second paragraph. I’d wondered what their official legal status was since they don’t go through nearly the same amount work and review involved in amending the Constitution.

The final paragraph contains our semi-famous line about religious qualifications for public office or appointment. Pretty amazing how we’re able to milk so much out of just 20 words.

Other Constitution posts.

The Constitution of the United States: Article V

Article V:

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.

Amending the Constitution is a deliberately difficult process, that requires a large number of people to be involved. Takes a 2/3 vote in each house of Congress and ratification by 3/4 of the States.

Just how slow can this process be? Let’s take a look at the last Amendment to be added, number 27. It was first proposed in 1789 and completed ratification in 1992. Those dates are not typos, it really did take more than 200 years for the process to be completed.

That’s an extreme example, Amendment 26 took less than 6 months to become part of the Constitution.

Other Constitution posts.

The Constitution of the United States: Article IV

Article IV – 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.

Each state recognizes that the other states are basically doing their job in the specified areas. But Congress can tell them how to do it.

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 or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due]1.

1- Superseded by the 13th Amendment.

Can’t avoid legal troubles by running to another state.

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.

The last time the U.S. admitted a new state was Hawaii on August 21, 1959 (see list of when each U.S. state was added). We haven’t added a state to the union in nearly 50 years, longer than I’ve been alive. If we go another 60 years or so with out adding a new state it’s possible that not a single U.S. citizen alive will have been around when we last added Hawaii.

The optimist in me thinks that we should be doing such a good job here that other entities will want to become the 51st 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 the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

Here’s another one of those moments where something that I’d known about before but always thought it had some etherial source turns out to be written right in to the Constitution itself. I think most people have heard that the U.S. is not a democracy it’s a republic, or at least argued with someone about it before :-). All this time it was spelled out from the beginning in Article IV Section 4, the goal and guarantee is to have “a Republican Form of Government”.

Now after reading the previous paragraph, go check out Dictionary.com’s second definition of democracy.

Other Constitution posts.

The Constitution of the United States: Article III

Article III – 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.

Only one Supreme Court, but the whole system below is pretty much up to Congress. I wonder what sort of action it would take to trigger the ‘good behavior’ clause?

Section 2, paragraph 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;–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]1;–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.

1- Changed by the 11th Amendment.

Looks like there are very few situations were the courts don’t explicitly have rights in ruling on.

Section 2, paragraphs 2-3:

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.

Issues with high ranking officials go directly to the Supreme Court, but for most cases the only get there after going through the lower courts first. Interesting that only impeachment is specifically excluded from trial by jury. I thought that list might have been longer.

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.

Treason, I still think of Benedict Arnold every time I hear the word. Probably one of the few things I remember from 6th grade U.S. History :-)

Using the word treason carries with it some strong baggage. It cuts to the soul of a person, that you’ve betrayed something so important, so well recognized that it casts an instant shame. I hope that those who choose to use this term against another do so recognizing the full weight and responsibility such a charge carries. Abuse of this term needs to carry it’s own allotment of shame and disgrace.

Other Constitution posts.

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