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The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States.

Since the Constitution came into force in 1789, it has been amended 27 times [60] to meet the changing needs of a nation now profoundly different from the eighteenth-century world in which its creators lived.

According to the United States Senate: "The Constitution's first three words— We the People —affirm that the government of the United States exists to serve its citizens.

The first permanent constitution of its kind, adopted by the people's representatives for an expansive nation, it is interpreted, supplemented, and implemented by a large body of constitutional law, and has influenced the constitutions of other nations.

Background


From September 5, 1774 to March 1, 1781, the Continental Congress functioned as the provisional government of the United States.

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was the first constitution of the United States.

Although, in a way, the Congressional powers in Article 9 made the "league of states as cohesive and strong as any similar sort of republican confederation in history", the chief problem was, in the words of George Washington, "no money".

Internationally, the Articles of Confederation did little to enhance the United States' ability to defend its sovereignty.

Domestically, the Articles of Confederation was failing to bring unity to the diverse sentiments and interests of the various states.

In September 1786, during an inter–state convention to discuss and develop a consensus about reversing the protectionist trade barriers that each state had erected, James Madison angrily questioned whether the Articles of Confederation was a binding compact or even a viable government.

Congress was paralyzed.

On February 21, 1787, the Confederation Congress called a convention of state delegates at Philadelphia to propose a plan of government.

History


On the appointed day, May 14, 1787, only the Virginia and Pennsylvania delegations were present, and so the convention's opening meeting was postponed for lack of a quorum.

Delegates used two streams of intellectual tradition, and any one delegate could be found using both or a mixture depending on the subject under discussion: foreign affairs, the economy, national government, or federal relationships among the states.

  • The Virginia Plan (also known as the Large State Plan or the Randolph Plan) proposed that the legislative department of the national government be composed of a Bicameral Congress, with both chambers elected with apportionment according to population. Generally favoring the most highly populated states, it used the philosophy of John Locke to rely on consent of the governed, Montesquieu for divided government, and Edward Coke to emphasize civil liberties. [60]
  • The New Jersey Plan proposed that the legislative department be a unicameral body with one vote per state. Generally favoring the less-populous states, it used the philosophy of English Whigs such as Edmund Burke to rely on received procedure and William Blackstone to emphasize sovereignty of the legislature. This position reflected the belief that the states were independent entities and, as they entered the United States of America freely and individually, remained so. [60]

On May 31, the Convention devolved into a "Committee of the Whole" to consider the Virginia Plan.

A "Committee of Eleven" (one delegate from each state represented) met from July 2 to 16 [91] to work out a compromise on the issue of representation in the federal legislature.

The Great Compromise ended the stalemate between "patriots" and "nationalists", leading to numerous other compromises in a spirit of accommodation.

On July 24, a "Committee of Detail" – John Rutledge (South Carolina), Edmund Randolph (Virginia), Nathaniel Gorham (Massachusetts), Oliver Ellsworth (Connecticut), and James Wilson (Pennsylvania) – was elected to draft a detailed constitution reflective of the Resolutions passed by the convention up to that point.

From August 6 to September 10, the report of the committee of detail was discussed, section by section and clause by clause.

The final document, engrossed by Jacob Shallus, [[CITE|-1|https://books.google.com/books?dq=Jacob+Shallus&id=oyFpDS8p33sC&pg=PA705#v=onepage&q=JacobShallus&f=false]] was taken up on Monday, September 17, at the Convention's final session.

The advocates of the Constitution were anxious to obtain unanimous support of all twelve states represented in the Convention.

Transmitted to the United States in Congress Assembled then sitting in New York City, the new Constitution was forwarded to the states by Congress recommending the ratification process outlined in the Constitution.

It was within the power of the old Congress of the Confederation to expedite or block the ratification of the new Constitution.

Then followed an arduous process of ratification of the Constitution by specially constituted conventions.

Three members of the Convention – Madison, Gorham, and King – were also Members of Congress.

Two parties soon developed, one in opposition, the Anti-Federalists, and one in support, the Federalists, of the Constitution; and the Constitution was debated, criticized, and expounded upon clause by clause.

The Continental Congress – which still functioned at irregular intervals – passed a resolution on September 13, 1788, to put the new Constitution into operation with eleven states.

Influences


Several ideas in the Constitution were new.

The Due Process Clause of the Constitution was partly based on common law and on Magna Carta (1215), which had become a foundation of English liberty against arbitrary power wielded by a ruler.

Among the most prominent political theorists of the late eighteenth century were William Blackstone, John Locke, and Montesquieu.

Both the influence of Edward Coke and William Blackstone were evident at the Convention.

British political philosopher John Locke following the Glorious Revolution (1688) was a major influence expanding on the contract theory of government advanced by Thomas Hobbes.

Montesquieu's influence on the framers is evident in Madison's Federalist No.

A substantial body of thought had been developed from the literature of republicanism in the United States, including work by John Adams and applied to the creation of state constitutions.

The constitution was a federal one, and was influenced by the study of other federations, both ancient and extant.

The United States Bill of Rights consists of 10 amendments added to the Constitution in 1791, as supporters of the Constitution had promised critics during the debates of 1788.

Original frame


Neither the Convention which drafted the Constitution, nor the Congress which sent it to the thirteen states for ratification in the autumn of 1787, gave it a lead caption.

The preamble to the Constitution serves as an introductory statement of the document's fundamental purposes and guiding principles.

Article One describes the Congress, the legislative branch of the federal government.

Article I, Section 8 enumerates the powers delegated to the legislature.

The Supreme Court has sometimes broadly interpreted the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause in Article One to allow Congress to enact legislation that is neither expressly allowed by the enumerated powers nor expressly denied in the limitations on Congress.

Article Two describes the office of the President of the United States.

Article Two describes the office, qualifications and duties of the President of the United States and the Vice President.

The president is the Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces and state militias when they are mobilized.

Section 4 provides for removal of the president and other federal officers.

Article Three describes the court system (the judicial branch), including the Supreme Court.

Section 1 vests the judicial power of the United States in federal courts, and with it, the authority to interpret and apply the law to a particular case.

As of the First Congress, the Supreme Court justices rode circuit to sit as panels to hear appeals from the district courts.

To enforce judicial decisions, the Constitution grants federal courts both criminal contempt and civil contempt powers.

Clause 1 of Section 2 authorizes the federal courts to hear actual cases and controversies only.

Clause 2 of Section 2 provides that the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in cases involving ambassadors, ministers and consuls, for all cases respecting foreign nation-states, [24] and also in those controversies which are subject to federal judicial power because at least one state is a party.

No part of the Constitution expressly authorizes judicial review, but the Framers did contemplate the idea.

Section 3 bars Congress from changing or modifying Federal law on treason by simple majority statute.

Article Four outlines the relations among the states and between each state and the federal government.

It also establishes extradition between the states, as well as laying down a legal basis for freedom of movement and travel amongst the states.

Article Five outlines the process for amending the Constitution.

There are two steps in the amendment process.

Presently, the Archivist of the United States is charged with responsibility for administering the ratification process under the provisions of 1 U.S.

Article Five ends by shielding certain clauses in the new frame of government from being amended.

Article Six establishes the Constitution, and all federal laws and treaties of the United States made according to it, to be the supreme law of the land, and that "the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the laws or constitutions of any state notwithstanding."

Article Seven describes the process for establishing the proposed new frame of government.

The Signing of the United States Constitution occurred on September 17, 1787 when 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention endorsed the constitution created during the convention.

The language of the concluding endorsement, conceived by Gouverneur Morris and presented to the convention by Benjamin Franklin, was made intentionally ambiguous in hopes of winning over the votes of dissenting delegates.

The document is dated: "the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord" 1787, and "of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth."

The closing endorsement serves an authentication function only.

Ratified amendments


The Constitution has twenty-seven amendments.

A proposed amendment becomes an operative part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States (currently 38 of the 50 States).

The First Amendment (1791) prohibits Congress from obstructing the exercise of certain individual freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and right to petition.

The Second Amendment (1791) protects the right of individuals [84] [84] to keep and bear arms.

The Third Amendment (1791) prohibits the federal government from forcing individuals to provide lodging to soldiers in their homes during peacetime without their consent.

The Fourth Amendment (1791) protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures of either self or property by government officials.

The Fifth Amendment (1791) establishes the requirement that a trial for a major crime may commence only after an indictment has been handed down by a grand jury; protects individuals from double jeopardy, being tried and put in danger of being punished more than once for the same criminal act; prohibits punishment without due process of law, thus protecting individuals from being imprisoned without fair procedures; and provides that an accused person may not be compelled to reveal to the police, prosecutor, judge, or jury any information that might incriminate or be used against him or her in a court of law.

The Sixth Amendment (1791) provides several protections and rights to an individual accused of a crime.

The Seventh Amendment (1791) extends the right to a jury trial to federal civil cases, and inhibits courts from overturning a jury's findings of fact.

The Eighth Amendment (1791) protects people from having bail or fines set at an amount so high that it would be impossible for all but the richest defendants to pay and also protects people from being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

The Ninth Amendment (1791) declares that individuals have other fundamental rights, in addition to those stated in the Constitution.

The Tenth Amendment (1791) was included in the Bill of Rights to further define the balance of power between the federal government and the states.

The Eleventh Amendment (1795) specifically prohibits federal courts from hearing cases in which a state is sued by an individual from another state or another country, thus extending to the states sovereign immunity protection from certain types of legal liability.

The Sixteenth Amendment (1913) removed existing Constitutional constraints that limited the power of Congress to lay and collect taxes on income.

The Eighteenth Amendment (1919) prohibited the making, transporting, and selling of alcoholic beverages nationwide.

The Twenty-first Amendment (1933) repealed the Eighteenth Amendment and returned the regulation of alcohol to the states.

The Thirteenth Amendment (1865) abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime, and authorized Congress to enforce abolition.

The Fourteenth Amendment (1868) granted United States citizenship to former slaves and to all persons "subject to U.S. jurisdiction".

The Fifteenth Amendment (1870) prohibits the use of race, color, or previous condition of servitude in determining which citizens may vote.

The Nineteenth Amendment (1920) prohibits the government from denying women the right to vote on the same terms as men.

The Twenty-third Amendment (1961) extends the right to vote in presidential elections to citizens residing in the District

The Twenty-fourth Amendment (1964) prohibits a poll tax for voting.

The Twenty-sixth Amendment (1971) prohibits the government from denying the right of United States citizens, eighteen years of age or older, to vote on account of age.

The Twelfth Amendment (1804) modifies the way the Electoral College chooses the President and Vice President.

The Seventeenth Amendment (1913) modifies the way senators are elected.

The Twentieth Amendment (1933) changes the date on which a new President, Vice President and Congress take office, thus shortening the time between Election Day and the beginning of Presidential, Vice Presidential and Congressional terms.

The Twenty-second Amendment (1951) limits an elected president to two terms in office, a total of eight years.

The Twenty-fifth Amendment (1967) clarifies what happens upon the death, removal, or resignation of the President or Vice President and how the Presidency is temporarily filled if the President becomes disabled and cannot fulfill the responsibilities of the office.

The Twenty-seventh Amendment (1992) prevents members of Congress from granting themselves pay raises during the current session.

Unratified amendments


Collectively, members of the House and Senate typically propose around 200 amendments during each two-year term of Congress.

Six amendments approved by Congress and proposed to the states for consideration have not been ratified by the required number of states to become part of the Constitution.

  • The Congressional Apportionment Amendment (proposed 1789) would, if ratified, establish a formula for determining the appropriate size of the House of Representatives and the appropriate apportionment of representatives among the states following each constitutionally mandated decennial census. At the time it was sent to the states for ratification, an affirmative vote by ten states would have made this amendment operational. In 1791 and 1792, when Vermont and Kentucky joined the Union, the number climbed to twelve. Thus, the amendment remained one state shy of the number needed for it to become part of the Constitution. No additional states have ratified this amendment since. To become part of the Constitution today, ratification by an additional twenty-seven would be required. The Apportionment Act of 1792 apportioned the House of Representatives at 33,000 persons per representative in consequence of the 1790 census. Reapportionment has since been effected by statute.
  • The Titles of Nobility Amendment (proposed 1810) would, if ratified, strip United States citizenship from any citizen who accepted a title of nobility from a foreign country. When submitted to the states, ratification by thirteen states was required for it to become part of the Constitution; eleven had done so by early 1812. However, with the addition of Louisiana into the Union that year (April 30, 1812), the ratification threshold rose to fourteen. Thus, when New Hampshire ratified it in December 1812, the amendment again came within two states of being ratified. No additional states have ratified this amendment since. To become part of the Constitution today, ratification by an additional twenty-six would be required.
  • The Corwin Amendment (proposed 1861) would, if ratified, shield"domestic institutions" of the states (which in 1861 included slavery) from the constitutional amendment process and from abolition or interference by Congress. This proposal was one of several measures considered by Congress in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to attract the seceding states back into the Union and to entice border slave states to stay. Five states ratified the amendment in the early 1860s, but none have since. To become part of the Constitution today, ratification by an additional 33 states would be required. The subject of this proposal was subsequently addressed by the 1865 Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery.
  • The Child Labor Amendment (proposed 1924) would, if ratified, specifically authorize Congress to limit, regulate and prohibit labor of persons less than eighteen years of age. The amendment was proposed in response to Supreme Court rulings in Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918) and Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co. (1922) that found federal laws regulating and taxing goods produced by employees under the ages of 14 and 16 unconstitutional. When submitted to the states, ratification by 36 states was required for it to become part of the Constitution, as there were forty-eight states. Twenty-eight had ratified the amendment by early 1937, but none have done so since. To become part of the Constitution today, ratification by an additional ten would be required. A federal statute approved June 25, 1938, regulated the employment of those under 16 or 18 years of age in interstate commerce. The Supreme Court, by unanimous vote in United States v. Darby Lumber Co. (1941), found this law constitutional, effectively overturning Hammer v. Dagenhart. As a result of this development, the movement pushing for the amendment concluded. [80]
  • The Equal Rights Amendment (proposed 1972) would have prohibited deprivation of equality of rights (discrimination) by the federal or state governments on account of sex. A seven-year ratification time limit was initially placed on the amendment, but as the deadline approached, Congress granted a three-year extension. Thirty-five states ratified the proposed amendment prior to the original deadline, three short of the number required for it to be implemented (five of them later voted to rescind their ratification). No further states ratified the amendment, thus it failed to be adopted.
  • The District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment (proposed 1978) would have granted the District of Columbia full representation in the United States Congress as if it were a state, repealed the 23rd Amendment, granted the District unconditional Electoral College voting rights, and allowed its participation in the process by which the Constitution is amended. A seven-year ratification time limit was placed on the amendment. Sixteen states ratified the amendment (twenty-two short of the number required for it to be implemented) prior to the deadline, thus it failed to be adopted.

Judicial review


The way the Constitution is understood is influenced by court decisions, especially those of the Supreme Court.

Judicial review includes the power of the Court to explain the meaning of the Constitution as it applies to particular cases.

Legislation passed to implement the Constitution, or to adapt those implementations to changing conditions, broadens and, in subtle ways, changes the meanings given to the words of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has indicated that once the Constitution has been extended to an area (by Congress or the Courts), its coverage is irrevocable.

Courts established by the Constitution can regulate government under the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

The basic theory of American Judicial review is summarized by constitutional legal scholars and historians as follows: the written Constitution is fundamental law.

In Convention. As to judicial review and the Congress, the first proposals by Madison (Va) and Wilson (Pa) called for a supreme court veto over national legislation.

The justification for judicial review is to be explicitly found in the open ratifications held in the states and reported in their newspapers.

The Supreme Court was initially made up of jurists who had been intimately connected with the framing of the Constitution and the establishment of its government as law.

When John Marshall followed Oliver Ellsworth as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1801, the federal judiciary had been established by the Judiciary Act, but there were few cases, and less prestige.

In the landmark Marbury v. Madison case, the Supreme Court asserted its authority of judicial review over Acts of Congress.

"This argument has been ratified by time and by practice..."

Something of a crisis arose when, in 1935 and 1936, the Supreme Court handed down twelve decisions voiding Acts of Congress relating to the New Deal.

The power of judicial review could not have been preserved long in a democracy unless it had been "wielded with a reasonable measure of judicial restraint, and with some attention, as Mr.

The Court controls almost all of its business by choosing what cases to consider, writs of certiorari.

These three procedural ways of dismissing cases have led critics to charge that the Supreme Court delays decisions by unduly insisting on technicalities in their "standards of litigability".

The Supreme Court balances several pressures to maintain its roles in national government.

Justice Brandeis summarized four general guidelines that the Supreme Court uses to avoid constitutional decisions relating to Congress: The Court will not anticipate a question of constitutional law nor decide open questions unless a case decision requires it.

Likewise with the Executive Department, Edwin Corwin observed that the Court does sometimes rebuff presidential pretensions, but it more often tries to rationalize them.

John Marshall recognized that the president holds "important political powers" which as Executive privilege allows great discretion.

Critics of the Court object in two principal ways to self-restraint in judicial review, deferring as it does as a matter of doctrine to Acts of Congress and Presidential actions.

Supreme Courts under the leadership of subsequent Chief Justices have also used judicial review to interpret the Constitution among individuals, states and federal branches.

Salmon P. Chase was a Lincoln appointee, serving as Chief Justice from 1864 to 1873.

In one of his first official acts, Chase admitted John Rock, the first African-American to practice before the Supreme Court.

William Howard Taft was a Harding appointment to Chief Justice from 1921 to 1930.

As Chief Justice, he advocated the Judiciary Act of 1925 that brought the Federal District Courts under the administrative jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

In 1925, the Taft Court issued a ruling overturning a Marshall Court ruling on the Bill of Rights.

Earl Warren was an Eisenhower nominee, Chief Justice from 1953 to 1969.

In 1954, the Warren Court overturned a landmark Fuller Court ruling on the Fourteenth Amendment interpreting racial segregation as permissible in government and commerce providing "separate but equal" services.

William Rehnquist was a Reagan appointment to Chief Justice, serving from 1986 to 2005.

Nevertheless, the Rehnquist Court was noted in the contemporary "culture wars" for overturning state laws relating to privacy prohibiting late-term abortions in Stenberg v. Carhart , prohibiting sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas , or ruling so as to protect free speech in Texas v. Johnson or affirmative action in Grutter v. Bollinger .

Civic religion


There is a viewpoint that some Americans have come to see the documents of the Constitution, along with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, as being a cornerstone of a type of civil religion.

The idea of displaying the documents struck one academic critic looking from the point of view of the 1776 or 1789 America as "idolatrous, and also curiously at odds with the values of the Revolution".

Some commentators depict the multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian United States as held together by a political orthodoxy, in contrast with a nation state of people having more "natural" ties.

Worldwide influence


The United States Constitution has been a notable model for governance around the world.

Criticisms


The United States Constitution has faced various criticisms since its inception in 1787.

The Constitution did not originally define who was eligible to vote, allowing each state to determine who was eligible.

See also


Related documents

Notes


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