"The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of the people." -- Justice William O. Douglas
The United States Constitution is one of the most exceptional constructions of a free society that has ever been produced. It is a relatively short document -- particularly when compared to any of the laws and regulations written today. That is partly because it is not a list of "laws" but rather a framework designed to balance the need to give the federal government sufficient power to act for the Country, and protect individual rights against the historical reality that over time, people in power almost always want more power.
✦ Third clause, nullified by the 14th amendment, established that representatives and direct taxes would be apportioned among the states based on their respective numbers.
✔ “Free persons” counted as 1 person
✔ Indians not taxed did not count at all’
✔ “All other Persons” counted as three-fifths per person.
✦ Congress must perform a census within 3 years after first meeting and at least every 10 years thereafter to determine appropriate representation.
✦ Each representative must represent at least 30,000 people, but each state is entitled to at least one representative
✦ Initially, the states will have the following number of representatives
New Hampshire: 3
New Jersey: 4
North Carolina: 5
South Carolina: 5
✦ In case of a vacancy, the executive of that state will order an election to fill the vacancy
✦ The House has the sole power of impeachment
✦ Members of the Senate:
✔ Each state will have 2 senators, each of whom will have 1 vote
✔ Initially Senators were to be chosen by the state legislatures, but this was changed to popular election by the 17th amendment in 1913.
✔ Senators will serve 6-year terms. Upon their first meeting, they will immediately divide senators into 3 classes and designate the term of the first class to expire after 2 years and the second class to expire after 4 years (so that one-third will be elected every two years).
✔ Vacancies originally to be filled by the state legislature, by changed by the 17th amendment which requires the executive to order an election to fill the vacancy and empowering the legislature to permit the executive to make a temporary appointment until the election can be held.
✦ Qualifications to be a Senator:
✔ At least 35 years of age
✔ A citizen of the U.S. for at least 9 years
✔ Is a resident of the state he intends to represent
✦ The Vice President will serve as president of the senate but will only cast a vote to break a tie vote
✦ The Senate has the sole power to try impeachments.
✦ Time, place & manner of the election of senators and house members will be determined by the separate states, but Congress can make changes.
✦ Congress must meet at least once each year on [see 20th amendment].
Section 5. Sets up rules for the operation of the house and senate
✦ Senators and representatives will be paid
✦ Senators and representatives will be immune from arrest (prosecution) while going to or from or while in the chambers in Congress.
✦ Congress members cannot hold any other civil office of the U.S.
✦ Only the House can originate revenue-raising bills
✦ How a bill becomes a law
Section 8. Sets forth the Powers of Congress
✦ Levy and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the US
✦ Pay debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the US
✦ Borrow money.
✦ Regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states
✦ Establish a uniform rule of naturalization, & bankruptcies
✦ Coin money, regulate its value, fix the Standard of Weights and Measures
✦ Provide for the punishment of counterfeiting
✦ Establish Post Offices and post roads
✦ “Promote the progress of science and useful arts” by granting patents
✦ Create lower courts
✦ Define and punish piracies, felonies committed on the high seas and offenses against the Law of Nations
✦ Declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal and make rules concerning captures on land and water
✦ Raise and support armies (but “no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years”)
✦ Provide and maintain a navy
✦ Make rules of governing and regulating land and naval forces
✦ Provide for calling up the militia to enforce US laws, suppress insurrections and repel invasions
✦ Provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia; reserving to the states the appointment of officers and the training of the militia according to the rules prescribed by Congress.
✦ Exercise exclusive legislation “in all cases whatsoever, in the [District of Columbia], and to exercise similar authority over places purchased from a state (by mutual agreement) to use for forts, arsenals, dockyards and other needful buildings
✦ “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 U.S. or in any department or officer thereof.”
✦ Essentially giving states the right to import slaves until 1808, but authorizing up to a $10/person tax.
✦ Congress may not suspend the ability of individuals to petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (except national emergency)
✦ Congress can’t pass any bill of attainder or ex post facto law.
✦ “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
✦ Prohibits tax on goods exported from any state.
✦ Prohibits favoritism (and taxing) among the states in goods shipped between states
✦ Congress may not spend money without a specific appropriation being passed. Congress must provide a regular budget of all public money collected and spent.
✦ The U.S. will not issue “titles”
✦ Specific things states are prohibited from doing:
✔ Enter into any Treaty, Alliance or Confederation
✔ coin money
✔ issue Bills of Credit
✔ Allow anything other than gold or silver to be considered legal tender
✔ pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the Obligation of Contracts
✔ grant any Title of Nobility
✦ Specific things states cannot do without the Consent of Congress:
✔ Tax imports or exports (except minimal cost of state inspection)
✔ Any state tax on imports or exports goes to the US treasure
✔ Tax the capacity of ships, keep troups or ships of war in peacetime
✔ Sign any Agreement with another state or foreign government
✔ engage in war unless actually invaded (or in otherwise imminent danger).
 A Letter of Marque and Reprisal was a government licence authorizing a private vessel to attack and capture enemy vessels, and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale. Cruising for prizes with a Letter of Marque was considered an honorable calling combining patriotism and profit, in contrast to unlicensed piracy
 Writ of Habeas Corpus: A writ of habeas corpus is a summons with the force of a court order, addressed to the custodian (a prison official for example) demanding that a prisoner be taken before the court, and that the custodian present proof of authority, allowing the court to determine if the custodian has lawful authority to detain the person.
 A bill of attainder was a legislative act that singled out one or more persons and imposed punishment on them, without benefit of trial. "The Bill of Attainder Clause was intended as an implementation of the separation of powers, a general safeguard against legislative exercise of the judicial function or more simply - trial by legislature." U.S. v. Brown, 381 U.S. 437, 440 (1965).
 Ex Post Facto is Latin for "after the fact," which refers to laws adopted after an act is committed making it illegal although it was legal when done, or increasing the penalty for a crime after it is committed.
 There is no easy explanation of what this provision means. Many deemed the “direct” taxes referenced herein to be the “poll tax” and taxes on land. [“Indirect” taxes were/are taxes on expenses, such as a value added tax.]
The Bill of Rights
Below are the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, commonly called the Bill of Rights. The text of the amendments is followed by a short summary, in italicized print.
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.
U.S. citizens have freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
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.
U.S. ciizens have the right to keep and bear arms (to own guns).
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The government may not force U.S. citizens to shelter soldiers in their homes.
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.
U.S. citizens are protected from unreasonable searches of a person's property.
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.
The government may not force U.S. cit5izens 5to testify against themselves in court.
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.
U.S. citizens have the right to a fair and speedy trial.
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.
U.S. citizens have the right to a trial by jury.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
U.S. citizens are protected from cruel and unusual punishment.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
U.S. citizens may have rights that are not listed in the Constitution
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.
Powers not given to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution belong to the state or to the people.