United States Constitution
PREAMBLE: 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.
|Text of the United States Constitution||Key Issues||The ‘Travis Translation’ of the Constitution|
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. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New- York six, New Jersey, four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
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 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.
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 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.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.
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.
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.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes 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.
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;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
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 exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;— And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
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 Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
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.
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.
Clause 2: To get elected to the House, you must be 25 years old, be a citizen of the United States for seven years, and live in the state that elects you.
Clause 3: [Representatives and taxes were originally based on population which did not count slaves and Indians as full people; Section 2 of the 14th Amendment changed how people are counted.]
Representatives in Congress, as well as taxes [this part about taxes was changed by the 16th Amendment], are spread out over the country and are based on the number of people living in the places they represent. People in the country get counted every 10 years in a census so we know how many people are in the country, and so we can figure how many people are represented in the House of Representatives, and so we can figure taxes. A certain number of people (originally 30,000; now over 500,000) have their own representative.
For the first Congress, with no census, the division of Representatives in the House was: New Hampshire, 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.
Clause 4: If a Representative leaves office or dies, the Governor of that State sets up another election.
Clause 2: The Senate of the United States will have two Senators from each state elected every six years. Each Senator has one vote in the Senate. After the first election of Senators in the U.S., they will divide themselves into three groups, each picking a term of two, four, and six years for their first term so after that, one-third of the Senators are elected every two years. If a Senator leaves office or dies, the Governor of the State will pick someone to be the Senator until the next election.
Clause 7: People impeached by Congress cannot be elected or appointed to another office. But if somebody gets impeached and then gets kicked out of office, he or she may still be tried before a jury for any crimes, like the law says.
Clause 2: The Congress will meet at least once every year, at a regular time [originally, they were to meet on the first Monday in December, but Section 2 of the 20th Amendment changed that to noon on January 3, unless they make a law to move it to another day.]
Clause 3: Both the House of Representatives and the Senate will write down what they say and do in a journal and print it so everybody can read it, unless it is really secret. Votes of individual Representatives or Senators must be written down if 20% of the Members want that.
Clause 2: When a bill passes both the House and the Senate, the bill goes to the President who must sign it to make it the law. If the President agrees with the bill, the President signs it — but if the President does not agree with the bill, within 10 days, the President writes down why and sends that letter and the bill back to the House of Representatives or the Senate, wherever the bill got started. When Congress gets the letter and the bi II back from the President, the House of Representatives or the Senate puts it all in their journal. Then they talk about it again and vote on it again. If two¬thirds of the Representatives and Senators vote for the same bill again, it becomes law. The Representatives and the Senators must have their votes written down on this vote in their journal. If the President does not sign the bill, or does not send the bill back to Congress in 10 days (not counting Sundays), then it becomes law, unless Congress officially leaves to go home (adjourns).
Clause 3: Each law passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate must be signed by the President — or the President must agree with it — and the ones the President does not agree with (those that get “vetoed”) must be passed by two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate before it can be the law.
Clause 2: To borrow money;
Clause 3: To make rules for how people do business, including buying and selling things with people in other countries, among the states, and with Native Americans;
Clause 4: To decide on fair rules for letting people become citizens — and rules for bankruptcies in all the States;
Clause 6: To punish people who copy money or bonds of the United States;
Clause 7: To build post offices and roads;
Clause 8: To promote science and the arts by giving copyrights to writers and inventors for things they write and discover;
Clause 9: To keep a system of courts around the country to support the Supreme Court;
Clause 10: To make laws about what people can and cannot do on the oceans;
Clause 11: To make war, to allow private boats and vessels to catch and arrest enemy ships, and to make rules about taking prisoners on the land and on the water;
Clause 12: To build an army and to pay for it — but money for the army can only be given for, at the most, two years at a time;
Clause 13: To build a Navy and to pay for it;
Clause 14: To make all the rules for the government and the Army and the Navy;
Clause 15: To make rules for calling the state National Guards to force people to obey the law, stop riots and to fight attackers;
Clause 16: To organize the States’ National Guards and to give them guns and equipment and to be in charge of them if they are working for the United States. But the states get to be in charge of the training Congress wants, and the states each get to pick the officers of the National Guard in their state;
Clause 17: To be in charge of a place, no bigger than 10 square miles, a place given by the states and accepted by Congress, which will be the seat of the federal government. [This is present-day Washington, D.C.] Congress will be in charge of all the places bought and run by the government; and
Clause 2: Rights of people in jail to make the government show why they are in jail can be taken away only if there is a rebellion, or if the United States is invaded by a foreign power.
Clause 3: Congress cannot pass a law to declare someone guilty of a crime. Criminal laws passed by Congress can be applied only from the time they are passed.
Clause 4: Congress must tax according to the number of citizens there are in the country, according to the Census. [The 16th Amendment changed this so Congress could charge and collect taxes any way they wanted.]
Clause 5: Congress cannot tax things sold from one state to another state.
Clause 6: Congress cannot prefer one port over another, and no ships from one state can get taxed for using another state’s port.
Clause 2: States must have the permission of Congress to charge money for the buying and selling of things that come into the country and things sold outside of the country. If states pass laws to charge money for things that come into and go out of the country, all the money collected will go to the United States Treasury. Congress can make laws to change or control these state laws.
Clause 3: States must have Congress’ permission to keep armies, or warships during peacetime. States will need Congress’ permission to join forces with another state or with a foreign power, or to make war, unless they are invaded and the United States troops cannot get there in time to help.
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 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.
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.”
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.
Clause 3: The electors meet in their states and vote for two people. At least one person for whom they vote cannot live in that elector’s state. The Electors will make a list of all the people they voted for, and how many votes each person got. Then they sign and certify the list, and send it to the President of the Senate in the seat of the United States Government (in Washington, D.C.). The President of the Senate opens all the States’ certificates in front of the Representatives and Senators, and then the votes are counted. The person with the majority of electors’ votes will be the President. If more than one person has the same number of electors’ votes, the Representatives will immediately choose one of them by a vote. If nobody has a majority, then the Representatives will choose a President from among the five people who got the most electors’ votes. But if the Representatives have to choose a President like this, the vote will be taken by States, and each state has only one vote. At least two-thirds of the Representatives must be present to choose a President like this. If the President has to be chosen like this, the person with the next most electors’ votes will be the Vice President. If there is a tie, the Senators vote for the Vice President. [The 12th Amendment and the 23rd Amendment changed this process]
Clause 4: Congress picks the time of choosing of electors, and the day they vote. It will be the same day in all States.
Clause 7: The President will get paid for serving as President, and the pay cannot go up or down while that person serves as President. The President cannot get paid anything but salary from the United States while President. The President cannot get money from any State.
Clause 8: When the President takes office, this is the oath: “1 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.”
Clause 2: The President has the power to make treaties, with the advice and permission of two thirds of the Senators present. The President will also appoint, with the advice and permission of two thirds of the Senators, Ambassadors (U.S. representatives in other countries), Supreme Court Judges, and other U.S. officers. Congress must approve the President’s treaties with a two-thirds vote of Senators present. Congress will decide how other appointments will be handled. Congress can let the President, the courts, or Department heads appoint other officers as they see fit.
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.
All debts and promises made by the United States before the approval of this Constitution will still be enforced under this Constitution.
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,
|Ratification of the Constitution||
This agreement is made unanimously by the States present on September 17, 1787; twelve years after becoming Independent.
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.
Preamble to the Bill of Rights
|The Right to Bear Arms||
The 2nd Amendment
The 9th Amendment
The 10th Amendment
The 15th Amendment
The 16th Amendment
The 19th Amendment
The 26th Amendment
The 27th Amendment