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CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES1
(This copy of the Constitution conforms in wording and punctuation to the copy published by the Department of State at Washington in 1902; but in order to facilitate reference to its contents, side headings, in full-face type, have been prefixed to the paragraphs.
All paragraphs, or parts of paragraphs, which are inclosed in brackets (see, for example, the third paragraph of Article 1, Section 2) were either temporary provisions or they have been modified or superseded.
Footnotes have been appended on all points which seemed to require them.)
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.
1 Before the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies were subject to the King of Great Britain. From July 4, 1776, the United States of America were governed by a Continental or General Congress until March 1, 1781, when the States adopted a constitution, called the "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between the States" (see the Articles in Macdonald's "Documentary Source Book of American History," or in Macy's "Our Government," or Boynton's "Civics"; also in Hart and Charming's "American History Leaflets," NO. 20, or the "Old South Leaflets," General Series, NO. 2). The Confederacy had no President, no supreme court, and consisted of a single house of Congress, made up of delegates elected by the legislatures of the States. Under this constitution Congress continued to govern--in so far as a body with no practical authority can be said to govern -- until March 4, 1789; but on May 14, 1787, a convention of delegates from all the States, except Rhode Island, met in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, "to form a more perfect union" (see the opening words of the Constitution above). The whole number of delegates that eventually attended was fifty-five, but only thirty-nine signed the Constitution. The Articles of Confederation had been made by the States only; but as the opening words of the new compact declare "We, the people," made the Constitution.
George Washington presided over the convention, and Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, James Madison, Rufus King, Roger Sherman, Alexander Hamilton, John Dickinson, Charles C. Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, J. Rutledge, and Gouverneur Morris were among its distinguished members.
Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, and Gouverneur Morris took the leading part in the great work of drafting the new Constitution, and after its adoption by the convention Madison and Hamilton used their influence, with great effect, to urge the ratification by the States, especially by New York (see their papers in the Federalist).
The convention sat with closed doors and maintained the utmost secrecy. After a stormy session of nearly four months, during which the convention several times threatened to break up in hopeless dispute, the Constitution was at last adopted (for the compromises on which it rested, see p. 173, note 1). Madison seems to have been the delegate who did more than any one else in drafting the plan of the instrument. On that account he is
CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
ARTICLE I. LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT
SECTION 1. CONGRESS
Legislative Powers. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress I of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
SECTION 2. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Election of Members. 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.
Qualifications. 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.
sometimes called the "Father of the Constitution." On the other band, we appear to be indebted mainly to Gouverneur Morris for the clearness and precision of the style of the document.
While the members of the convention were signing the Constitution the venerable Dr. Franklin, then aged eighty-one, rose and said: "I have often, in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at the sun [painted on the wall back of the president's chair], without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now, at length, I have the happiness to know that it is a rising, and not a setting sun."
The Constitution was then submitted to the Congress of the Confederacy. That body, after discussing it, sent it to the State legislatures; they, in turn, submitted it, for final ratification, to the conventions chosen by the people of the several States (see Article VII of the Constitution). In 1788 eleven had ratified it (Rhode Island and North Carolina declining then, though they gave their assent before the close of 1790), and on March 4, 1789, the new Constitution went into operation, although, owing to delays, Washington was not inaugurated as the first President until April 30 of that year.
For a detailed account of the action of the Constitutional Convention see Elliot's Debates in the Convention," etc., 5 vols.; Schouler's "United States," 1, ch. 1, or McMaster's History of the People of the United States," 1, pp, 389-399, 4 16-423, and 436-5 5 3. A good brief account of it is given in Boynton's "Civics."
A facsimile, or exact copy, of the original manuscript of the Constitution will be found in Carson's "Hundredth Anniversary of the Constitution," 1, p. 238.
The manuscript itself and the Amendments are preserved in the State Department at Washington.
Since the Constitution went into operation in 1789, it has been modified in several ways, namely: (1) by amendment (see the Seventeen Amendments which follow it); (2) by decisions and interpretations of the Supreme Court of the United States; (3) by political usage, especially respecting either the broad or the strict construction of the provisions of the instrument. See on these points pp. 237-238, with references, of the "Student's American History" in this series.
In this connection the pupil will find an interesting chapter in Boynton's "Civics" on the "Unwritten Constitution," and one in Macy's "Our Government" on the "Silences of the Constitution."
1 Congress assembles on the first Monday in December; the first, or "long session," usually closes some time in the following summer: the second, or "short session," closes, by law, at noon on March 4. Each Congress exists two years.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
Apportionment. 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; land until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose 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].2
Vacancies. When vacancies happen in the representation from any State, the executive authority 3 thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.
Officers; Impeachment. The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other officers;4 and shall have the sole power of impeachment.5
1 "Three fifths of all other persons." This clause referred to slaves (see § 196, note 1, paragraph 3). The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, and the whole of the clause contained in brackets was superseded by the Fourteenth Amendment.
2 The apportionment of 1913 (see Table of Representation in the Appendix) was one representative for every 212,407 persons. The clause in brackets beginning, "and until such enumeration" was a temporary provision.
3 "Executive authority," meaning here the governor of the State.
4 "Speaker and other officers." The Speaker is one of the representatives; the "other officers," namely the clerk, sergeant-at-arms, postmaster, doorkeeper, etc., are not representatives. The Speaker is almost always elected by the political party which has a majority in the House, and it is generally understood that he will cast his influence for that party.
Formerly he sometimes availed himself of his right, as a member of the House, to leave his seat for a short time in order to take an active part in the debate of some question of unusual interest. This right he now very seldom exercises.
He has been called "the most important figure in Congress," standing "next in dignity and power to the President."
In certain directions he could control legislation, especially by preventing it. This he did in four ways: (1) as a rule, no member of the House could introduce a bill or speak on any question until the Speaker chose to recognize him; (2) the Speaker could control legislation by his power of appointment of all committees to which bills or drafts of proposed laws must be referred; (3) he could prevent the discussion of any proposition through his power to state questions and decide points of order; (4) he was chairman of the Committee on Rules, which decided what order of business the House should follow, and hence what measures should be brought to the attention of the House.
These four powers of the Speaker made him practically the real head of the House of Representatives. But in 1911 Congress decided that the Speaker should no longer be chairman of the Committee on Rules, but that the House itself would elect that committee; and in 1913 Congress decided that all committees should be so elected. (See Professor Everett Kimball's "The National Government of the United States," pp. 325, 347. Ginn and Company.)
5 "Impeachment." The power to charge the President or any of the leading officers of the government with having violated the Constitution or the laws, and to bring them to trial before the Senate, as in the case of President Johnson (§ 366).
CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
SECTION 3. SENATE
Number of Senators; Election. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each senator shall have one vote. [Repealed by Amendment VXII.]
Classification. 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; 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 executive1 thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies. [Modified by Amendment XVII.]
Qualifications. 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.
President of Senate. The Vice President of the United States shall be president of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.
Officers. The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a president pro tempore,2 in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.
Trials of Impeachment. The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments3: 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 Case of Conviction. 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. BOTH HOUSES
Manner of electing Members. The times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing senators.4
Meetings of Congress. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meetings shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
1 "Executive" (see note 3, p. viii).
2 "Pro tempore." For the time being.
3 "Impeachments" (see note 5, p. viii).
4 This is to prevent Congress from fixing the places of meeting of the State legislatures.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY SECTION 5. THE HOUSES SEPARATELY
Organization. Each house shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum1 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.
Rules. Each house may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.
Journal. 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.2
Adjournment. Neither house, during the session of Congress, shall, without ,he 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. PRIVILEGES AND DISABILITIES OF MEMBERS
Pay and Privileges of Members. The senators and representatives shall receive a compensation3 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.
Prohibitions on Members. No senator or representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased, during such time; and no person holding any office under the United States shall be a member of either house during his continuance in office.
SECTION 7. METHOD OF PASSING LAWS
Revenue Bills. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives;4 but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.
How Bills become Laws; Veto Power of the President. Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it become
1 "Quorum." A number competent to transact business.
2 Namely, the votes by yeas and pays; the entering of such votes on the journal opposite the names of members fixes the responsibility of each for his vote. Notice that when Congress passes a bill over the President's veto the votes are always determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the members voting are recorded in the journal (see Section 7, Paragraph 2, on the veto power of the President).
3 "Compensation." $7500 a year and twenty cents for every mile of travel from and to their homes each annual session. There is also an allowance Of $125 for stationery and newspapers.
4 This power was conferred on the House because its members are directly elected by the people, from whom, in most cases, the revenue is derived. An immense majority of all
CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
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.
Resolutions, etc. 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. POWERS GRANTED TO CONGRESS
Enumerated Powers of Congress. The Congress shall have power:
To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;
To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
To establish post offices and post roads;
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
bills presented in the House are" strangled" in the committees to which they are referred. In one Congress nearly 13,000 bills and joint resolutions were introduced; of these 9632 were never heard of again, and only 1385 became laws. See Hart's 11 Essays on American Government," p. 9.
1 See note 2, P. x, on votes by yeas and nays.