Thoughts on the Constitution: Article I


Article I

Section 1.


All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Legislative power is the power to make law (from Latin, lex, legis). It is significant that the first article outlines the process by which laws are to be made. This is clearly one of the most important functions of government. A just, free, and prosperous society depends upon the rule of law, impartially administered.
Under the Constitution the legislative power is entrusted to Congress, which consists of two chambers:  the Senate and the House of Representatives.[1] We find here another division of power. In order for a law to be passed, it has to be approved by both chambers of Congress. Although both are involved in making law, they represent different interests—at least this was true under the original form of the Constitution. Originally, Senators were chosen by their state’s legislature, and they represented the states as states. It is not just the people of the states who have an interest in the federal government; the state governments have an interest as well. And the state governments were originally represented by Senators whom they chose, not the people. As we shall see, this was changed by the 17th Amendment (1913).

The Constitution…adopts, as a fundamental rule, the exercise of the legislative power by two distinct and independent branches. The advantages of this division are, in the first place, that it interposes a great check upon undue, hasty, and oppressive legislation. In the next place, it interposes a barrier against the strong propensity of all public bodies to accumulate all power, patronage, and influence in their own hands. In the next place, it operates, indirectly, to retard, if not wholly to prevent, the success of the efforts of a few popular leaders, by their combinations and intrigues in a single body, to carry their own personal, private, or party objects into effect, unconnected with the public good. In the next place, it secures a deliberate review of the same measures, by independent minds, in different branches of government, engaged in the same habits of legislation, but organized upon a different system of elections. And, in the last place, it affords great securities to public liberty, by requiring the cooperation of different bodies, which can scarcely ever, if properly organized, embrace the same sectional or local interest, or influences, in exactly the same proportion, as a single body.[2]



Section 2.


Section 1 provides in general terms for a Congress of the United States, which is to consist of two chambers:  a Senate and a House of Representatives. Section 2 deals specifically with the House of Representatives. The section is divided into six paragraphs. The first establishes the length of the term of office for members of the House and explains who may participate in their election.

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.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States — Members of the House serve for a term of two years. Elections are held every even numbered year (2010, 2012, 2014, etc.), and the newly elected (or re-elected) members begin their term in January of the following odd numbered year (2011, 2013, 2015, etc.).
There is wisdom in having a relatively short term of office. The shorter the term, the more accountable members of the House are to the voters in their home district. Every two years they must face their constituents, who stand in judgment as to how faithfully they have fulfilled the duties of their office. But the term is not so short that there is no opportunity to gain experience in serving.
And the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature — “Electors” are those who have the right to vote. If the Constitution were to be re-written in modern English this line might read, “And the Voters in each State” etc.
This paragraph ensures that those whom each state regards as qualified to vote for the most numerous branch of the each state legislature shall be permitted to vote for members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Like Congress, most states have two chambers in their state legislatures:  a smaller upper house (a state Senate), and a larger lower house (a state House of Representatives or state Assembly or House of Delegates).[1] This provision of the Constitution guarantees that whoever is qualified to vote for members of the lower house in each state is qualified to vote for the lower house of the federal government (i.e., the U.S. House of Representatives).
When the Constitution was ratified, each state had its own qualifications for voting for members of the state legislature. In some states, only those admitted to the privileges of freemen could vote.[2] In others, it was necessary to own property.[3] In still others, the right to vote was extended to nearly every free man.[4] The Constitution adopts the same qualifications for voting for members of the House of Representatives that each state adopted for the corresponding house in the state legislature because the Framers wished to respect whatever qualifications for voting each state had in place.

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The second paragraph of Article I, Section 2 reads:

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.

The first paragraph gives the qualifications for those eligible to vote for members of the House of Representatives. This paragraph gives the qualifications for those eligible to be elected. Three qualifications are given, and they have to do with:  (1) age, (2) citizenship, and (3) residency.
Age requirements are given in the Constitution for members of the House (25), members of the Senate (30), and for the President (35). As a general rule, greater learning and wisdom come with greater age and experience. For this reason, it has always been thought desirable to choose older men to serve in governing offices. Thus, rulers have often been called “elders” (Ex. 3:16; Num. 11:16; 1 Sam. 8:4; Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 5:17; Tit. 1:5; etc.).[5] This is reflected in the word “senate,” which comes from the Latin, senex, an old man. Twenty-five to thirty-five years of age might not seem very old by today’s standards until we consider the fact that people tended to mature much earlier in the colonial period, since survival often depended on one’s maturity. And if we also consider the fact that the average lifespan in colonial America was about 45 years, to limit the office to men much older than 25-35 would shrink the pool of available candidates considerably.
The rising minimum age for each of these offices reflects the greater degree of responsibility, and thus the greater wisdom and experience that are necessary to fulfill the duties of the office. We should note as well that the fewer the number, the greater the age. The House of Representatives is the most numerous body and has the lowest minimum age. The Senate has fewer members and has a greater minimum age. The office of President is filled by one man and has the highest minimum age. The younger people are, the more apt they are to act impulsively. This impulsiveness is tempered by numbers. One man is more likely to act impulsively—unless he is restrained by good judgment—than a large number of men.

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The third paragraph of Article I, Section 2 has to do with representation and taxes with respect to the slave population. The southern, slave-holding states wished to count slaves for purposes of representation in Congress, but not for purposes of taxation. They argued that since slaves were as much a part of the human population of a state as free men, they were just as entitled to representation in Congress.
The northern, non-slave-holding states wanted slaves to be counted for purposes of taxation, but not for representation. They argued that slaves were not free, could not vote, and therefore were not entitled to representation. Furthermore, they argued that since slaves were deemed to be the property of their owners, they should be counted as taxable property when direct taxes were levied.
The disagreement was very heated and led to a standoff that nearly caused the Convention to come to an end. James Madison, however, proposed a solution that was eventually accepted and has come to be called the Three-Fifths Compromise. Three-fifths of the total slave population of each state would be counted both for purposes of representation and for apportioning direct taxes. The compromise is included in the bracketed text below, and was changed by section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

[[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.

The paragraph requires that representation be based on the whole number of free persons, including indentured servants (“those bound to Service for a Term of Years”), plus three-fifths of “all other persons” (i.e., slaves). Indians who paid no taxes were not counted for representation.
The paragraph also authorizes a census to be taken three years after ratification and every ten years thereafter. “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.”
An upper limit was set for number of representatives relative to the population. “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand…” If a state did not have 30,000 inhabitants, it was still entitled to at least one representative. Until the time of the first census, the number of representatives for each state (based on its estimated population) was given as:

New Hampshire (3)
Massachusetts (8)
Rhode-Island (1)
Connecticut (5)
New York (6)
New Jersey (4)
Pennsylvania (8)
Delaware (1)
Maryland (6)
Virginia (10)
North Carolina (5)
South Carolina (5)
Georgia (3)

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The fourth paragraph of Article I, Section 2 reads:

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The meaning of this provision is pretty clear. If it should happen that a representative is unable for any reason to complete his term, the governor of his state shall provide for an election to be held in order for the people to select a new one.

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The fifth paragraph of Article I, Section 2 reads:

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

The paragraph makes two provisions. The first is the election of a Speaker. The powers and duties of the Speaker are not specifically stated but are implied in the title. The title was used in the British House of Commons for the presiding officer. The Constitution defines the powers and duties of the House of Representatives as body, and the Speaker is to preside over the House’s proceedings. He sets the agenda, determines the order in which the members of the House speak (no one can speak on the House floor until recognized by the Speaker), rules on points of order, and appoints the chairman of a number of House committees.
The Speaker is chosen by the members of the House, which in effect means he is chosen by whichever party has a majority. The first Speaker of the House was Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania. The current Speaker is John Boehner, a Republican who represents Ohio’s 8th congressional district.
In Great Britain, the Speaker of the House of Commons was chosen by its members, but had to be approved by the King. Some of the Colonies had a similar arrangement prior to Independence—the Speaker of the lower house of the colonial legislature was chosen by its members, subject to the approval of the governor. The framers of the Constitution, however, wished to keep the powers of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government separate and so did not require the president’s approval of the House’s election of a Speaker.
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 provides that in the event that neither the President nor the Vice President is able to “discharge the powers and duties of the office,” the Speaker of the House shall act as President.
This paragraph also provides the House of Representatives with “the sole Power of impeachment.” The power of impeachment is the power to,

present a written accusation against persons in high offices and trusts, for the purpose of bringing them to trial and punishment for gross misconduct… The articles of impeachment, are a sort of indictment; and the House, in presenting them, acts as a grand jury, and also as a public prosecutor. The great object of this power is, to bring persons to justice, who are so elevated in rank or influence, that there is danger they might escape punishment before the ordinary tribunals; and the exercise of power is usually confined to political or official offences.[6]

Article 2 Section 4 states, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Article 1 Section 3 provides that the Senate “shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” This means that the members of the Senate serve as judges. The House acts as the prosecuting attorney, the Senate acts as judge. Conviction requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate. Upon conviction, an official is removed from office.
Nineteen federal officials have been impeached, including two presidents (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton), one Senator, fourteen judges, and one Secretary of War. Of these, seven were acquitted, ten were removed from office, and three resigned prior to trial.
  

Section 3.

Section 1 provides in general terms for a Congress of the United States, which is to consist of two chambers:  a Senate and a House of Representatives. Section 2 deals specifically with the House of Representatives and Section 3 with the Senate. Section 3 is divided into seven paragraphs, the first of which reads as follows:

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.

Unlike the House, in which representation is proportional according to population, in the Senate each state has equal representation with two Senators apiece. The Section originally provided for Senators to be chosen by each state’s legislature. This is because the Senators were specifically to represent the states as states. Whereas the members of the House of Representatives were intended to represent the people of the states; the members of the Senate were to represent the governments of the states. The portion of the paragraph included in the brackets was changed by the 17th Amendment to read “elected by the people”. The amendment weakens the power of the state governments, which now have no official voice in the federal government.
Whereas members of the House serve for two years, Senators are elected to a six year term of office. The longer term provides for a greater continuity of government. “They should be chosen for a longer period than the House of Representatives, in order to prevent sudden, and total changes at the same period of all the functionaries of the government, which would necessarily encourage instability in the public councils, and stimulate political agitations and rivalries.”[7]
Each Senator is given one vote. This is a change from the Articles of Confederation, which granted each state one vote, however large their delegation the Continental Congress might have been.

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The second paragraph of Article 1 Section two provides for the division of the Senate into thirds.

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, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year…

Every two years, every seat in the House of Representatives and one third of the seats in the Senate is vacated.[8] The staggered terms of the Senators, like their longer terms, ensures that there is a greater continuity and stability of government.
The next portion of the paragraph explains how a vacant Senate seat is to be filled when the state legislature is in recess. Recall that originally the choosing of Senators was the responsibility of the state legislature. But a state legislature only meets during a few months in the year. What happens if a Senator should die when the state legislature is in recess and cannot meet to choose a new one? Without two Senators, a state is underrepresented in Congress. “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.” This provision was also changed by the 17th Amendment. Since by the provision of the 17th Amendment the right to choose Senators was transferred from state legislatures to the people of the states, the filling of vacancies was also transferred to the people, after a temporary appointment by the governor.

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.[9]
  
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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 responsibilities of Senators are greater than those of Representatives, therefore the requirements for holding office are greater with respect to age and citizenship. It is required that Representatives be at least 25 years of age and be seven years a citizen. But for Senators this is increased to 30 years of age and least nine years for citizenship.

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The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

As it happens, the Vice President rarely presides over the proceedings of the Senate today. This responsibility is usually delegated to a president pro tempore, an office which is customarily filled by the senior senator of the majority party. Although he is President of the Senate, he may only vote on legislation when there is a tie. Vice Presidents have cast 242 tie-breaking votes in our history.
According to the provisions of the 12th Amendment, the Vice President is to preside over the joint session of Congress when it convenes to count the vote of the Electoral College.

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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.

This paragraph ensures that the Senate shall have the power to organize itself by choosing its own officers. It specifically requires the selection of a President pro tempore—a President (of the Senate) for the time being. If the Vice President shall be called upon to exercise the office of President because of the latter’s death or illness or some other reason, then the President pro tempore is to fulfill the Vice President’s duties in the Senate.

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The Senate shall have the 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.

As noted before, the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment—to present a formal charge of wrongdoing by an officer of the federal government (Art. 1, Sec. 2). This paragraph invests the Senate with the sole responsibility to “try all impeachments.” This means that the Senate will conduct a trial by sitting as judges and making a determination on whether the impeached official should be convicted.
When meeting for the purpose of conducting a trial of impeachment, the members of the Senate will be “on Oath or Affirmation.”

This is required in all cases of trials in the common courts of law. Jurymen, as well as Judges, are always under oath or affirmation, in the discharge of their respective duties. It is a sanction, appealing to their consciences, and calling upon them to reflect well upon their duties.[10]

The Vice President is president of the Senate (Art. 1, Sec. 3, par. 4) and thus would normally preside over trials of impeachment. However, “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.” Since the Vice President might be supposed to have a vested interest in the outcome (either defending the President for whom he works, or else wishing to see him removed in order that he might take his place), this paragraph provides that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside.
The standard for conviction is greater than a simple majority. “And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.”

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:

The punishment imposed in cases of conviction is limited to removal from office and disqualification from ever holding office again.

but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

This means that if the offence for which an official is convicted is also a criminal offence, he may be tried in a common court of law and, if convicted, suffer further penalties.


Section 4.

 The first paragraph of Section 4 deals with incidental aspects of the election of Senators and Representatives.

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 chusing Senators.

Originally the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives” was left up to the discretion of the legislature of each state and each state decided these matters as it best suited them. But the option was granted to Congress to regulate the matter by legislation, which it did in 1872, setting elections on Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every even-numbered year. Congress allows Alaska to choose a different date.

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The second paragraph of Article 1 Section 4 specifies the day when Congress shall begin its session.

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.

The date was changed by the 20th Amendment to January 3.
  
  
Section 5.

Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum 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.

Each “House” (or “chamber,” i.e., Senate and House of Representatives) is responsible for overseeing that its members meet the Constitutional requirements of holding office (age, citizenship, and residency requirements). In Powell v. McCormack (1969) the Supreme Court ruled that a member may also be refused a seat if it has been discovered that he was elected fraudulently.
A simple majority in each chamber constitutes a quorum (minimum number present in order to conduct business). If there is less than the number necessary for a quorum, they may officially adjourn from day to day as necessary until a quorum is present. Or, if it is deemed necessary, they may pass a measure to “compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.” Members might be absent for any one of a number of reasons. But if they are absent for the purpose of preventing a quorum in order to forestall a vote, the chamber is authorized “to compel the Attendance of absent Members…under such Penalties as each House may provide.”

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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.

Each house makes its own rules, but these rules must not violate the Constitution. Each house has the following rules of debate:
In the Senate:  Senators may debate as long as they wish; however, the Cloture Rule was adopted to curb filibustering—“talking a bill to death.” A filibuster occurs when one or more senators monopolize debate in an attempt to kill a bill by using all the time allotted for its consideration before it is put to a vote. As the rule now stands, at least sixteen senators must submit a petition calling for a vote to invoke the Cloture Rule. The vote must be taken within two days, and a two thirds majority of the senators present and voting is necessary for approval. If cloture is invoked, each senator must limit his discussion of the bill under consideration to one hour. When discussion is completed, the Senate votes on the bill.
In the House:  House rules limit the debate of each representative to one hour unless the time is extended by unanimous consent.[11]

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There is to be an official record of the proceedings of each house, made accessible to the public.

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.

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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.



Section 6.

  
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation 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.

There are several important provisions in this paragraph. The first is that Senators and Representatives are to be paid for their services and are to be paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They are not paid by the states that send them, but by the federal government. The amount they are to be paid is to be set by law…in other words, by Congress itself. The latest Amendment also deals with congressional compensation. “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”[12]
 The next provision of this paragraph grants a limited immunity from arrest. “They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of the respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same.” The provision is intended to prevent arrests on frivolous or trumped up charges designed to prevent a member of Congress from participating in the legislative process.

It would be a great mistake to consider it [immunity from arrest], as in reality a personal privilege, for the benefit of the member. It is rather a privilege for the benefit of his constituents, that they may not be deprived of the presence, services, and influence of their own Representative in the national councils. It might otherwise happen, that he might be arrested from mere malice, or from political persecution, or upon some unfounded claim and thus they might be deprived of his aid and talents during the whole session.[13]

Immunity from arrest is limited, however. It does not include cases of treason, felony, or breach of the peace. “Treason is the highest crime of a civil nature of which a man can be guilty… It is the offense of attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance, or of betraying the state into the hands of a foreign power.”[14] At the time in which the Constitution was written, a felony was a crime punishable with death.[15] A “Breach of the Peace” is,

a violation or disturbance of the public tranquility and order… The offense of breaking or disturbing the public peace by any riotous, forcible, or unlawful proceeding. Breach of the peace is a generic term, and includes all violations of public peace or order and acts tending to a disturbance thereof.[16]

The paragraph also ensures that members of the House and of the Senate have perfect freedom of speech in the debates in their respective chambers without fear of being prosecuted. “For any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.” The threat of being sued might otherwise be used to stifle open debate.

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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 encreased 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.

A member of Congress may not be appointed to any newly created federal office. Otherwise it has the appearance that the office was created for the personal benefit of the member.
In a similar way, it is forbidden for a member of Congress to be appointed to a federal office during the session in which Congress approved an increase in the salary of the officeholder.
If a member of Congress is appointed to a federal office, he must resign his position in Congress. “No Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.” If, say, a member of Congress should be appointed by the President to be a judge, or a member of his cabinet, the congressman must resign before assuming the duties of his new office.
  

Section 7.

Section seven of Article I explains the way in which bills (pieces of legislation, laws) are passed. As some of the most controversial bills are those that deal with taxes, these are specified particularly and dealt with first.

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Raising revenue is done by imposing taxes. The government has no other way of filling its coffers. As this has always been a very controversial power, the Constitution wisely puts it into the hands of that body of the federal government which is closest to the people. Senators were originally only indirectly elected by the people, through the state legislature. Since the time of the 17th Amendment (1913), they have been chosen directly by the people in state-wide elections. On the other hand, members of the House of Representatives are chosen by a smaller group of people—the citizens of their own districts. Thus, they are personally acquainted with a larger percentage of their constituents and can therefore be more easily held accountable and voted out of office if they do not faithfully represent them.
Although tax bills must originate in the House, they must also be approved by the Senate, which may offer amendments to the bills proposed by the House. Bills dealing with any other matter may originate in either the House or the Senate.
Regardless of where a bill originates, it must be approved by both Houses and signed by the President in order to become law.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become 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.

A bill only requires a simple majority vote in order to be approved by Congress. A simple majority in the House (435 members) is 218 votes. A simple majority in the Senate (100) is 51 votes. Once a bill passes both Houses, it must be signed by the President for it to become law. If he disapproves of the bill, he may veto it. That is, he may return it to the House in which it originated for further reconsideration.

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.

A President’s veto may be overridden by a two-thirds majority of each House. An override requires 290 votes in the House and 67 votes in the Senate. If the bill has such wide support from both Houses, it cannot be stopped by the President from becoming law. Even if he refuses to sign the bill, it nevertheless becomes law after ten days.

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.

Congress may not simply adjourn before the ten days are completed in order to prevent the President from returning the bill with his veto and still expect the bill to become law.
The next paragraph gives a restatement and summary of how a bill becomes 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.


Section 8.

Section 8 is one of the most important sections of the Constitution because it defines the powers of Congress. These powers are often referred to as “enumerated powers,” meaning powers that are expressly stated in the Constitution. Congress is authorized to perform only those tasks that are mentioned in this section. This limited nature of congressional (as well as executive and judicial) power is further explained in the Tenth Amendment:  “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.”
There are eighteen enumerated powers, each of which is introduced with the word “To” (with a capital T).

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;

The first of the enumerated powers of Congress is “To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises.” Every government must have money in order to operate. The only way for a government to get money is through taxation.
Four words are used to indicate the kind of taxes Congress may levy. The first is a generic term that can be applied broadly:  taxes. The next three words are more specific. Duties and Imposts are taxes levied on imports—goods entering the United States. We can think of them as border taxes. When goods are produced in another country, a duty or impost may be charged for the right to cross the border to be sold in the United States. Excises can be thought of as an inland tax. It is a tax on specific goods produced and sold within the United States.  This is different from an ordinary sales tax which taxes all items sold at the same rate.[17] An excise is an additional tax on certain items, often alcohol, motor fuel, and tobacco products.[18]
The Constitution authorizes Congress to use tax revenue to “pay the Debts… of the United States.”
When the Constitution was ratified the young country had considerable debt from the War for Independence. One of the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation was that it did not authorize the Continental Congress to raise revenue by imposing taxes. Consequently, when Congress apportioned the debt among the states and some states did not send the necessary funds, Congress had no power to enforce the collection of taxes.
The Constitution also authorizes Congress to use tax revenue to “provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” To provide for the common defense means to fund a military to defend the states against foreign enemies. The “general Welfare” clause has been a source of great mischief wrought be those who take the “living document” view of the Constitution. It has been interpreted so broadly as to encompass nearly anything and everything Congress has wished to do provided that it can somehow be explained as promoting the general well-being of the country. In its original signification, the clause referred to that which promoted the welfare of the country as a whole, as opposed to that which promoted the welfare of this or that state, or this or that portion of the population. Now it is interpreted so broadly as to apply to very small segments of the population.[19]
The “general Welfare” clause[20] is one of three clauses in the Constitution that have been greatly abused by being interpreted so loosely as to remove virtually all limitations on the power of the Federal Government. The other two are the commerce clause[21] and the necessary and proper clause.[22]
The meaning of the general welfare clause was a subject of concern to the Anti-Federalists.[23]

I would ask those, who reason thus, to define what ideas are included under the terms, to provide for the common defence and general welfare? Are these terms definite, and will they be understood in the same manner, and to apply to the same cases by every one? No one will pretend they will. It will then be matter of opinion, what tends to the general welfare; and the Congress will be the only judges in the matter. To provide for the general welfare, is an abstract proposition, which mankind differ in the explanation of, as much as they do on any political or moral proposition that can be proposed; the most opposite measures may be pursued by different parties, and both may profess, that they have in view the general welfare; and both sides may be honest in their professions, or both may have sinister views. Those who advocate this new constitution declare, they are influenced by a regard to the general welfare; those who oppose it, declare they are moved by the same principle; and I have no doubt but a number on both sides are honest in their professions; and yet nothing is more certain than this, that to adopt this constitution, and not to adopt it, cannot both of them be promotive of the general welfare.

James Madison sought to allay the fears of those who believed the general welfare clause was an expansive grant of power to Congress in Federalist 41. He argued that the general welfare was defined and limited by the items subsequently listed in Article 1, Section 8.

Some, who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the 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," amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.

Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it; though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms "to raise money for the general welfare."

But what color can the objection have, when a specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms immediately follows, and is not even separated by a longer pause than a semicolon? If the different parts of the same instrument ought to be so expounded, as to give meaning to every part which will bear it, shall one part of the same sentence be excluded altogether from a share in the meaning; and shall the more doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent, and the clear and precise expressions be denied any signification whatsoever? For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars. But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity, which, as we are reduced to the dilemma of charging either on the authors of the objection or on the authors of the Constitution, we must take the liberty of supposing, had not its origin with the latter.

In summary, the first paragraph of Article 1, Section 8 explains in general terms the powers given to Congress, and the remaining seventeen paragraphs explain these powers in greater detail.

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

Under sound management, a government should rarely need to borrow money, but in the event of sudden and unforeseen emergency situations (such as war), it might be necessary to do so. This provision of the Constitution authorizes the Federal Government to borrow money when needed. For the current state of our indebtedness, check out the U.S. National Debt Clock (http://www.usdebtclock.org/). Currently the Federal Government owes over 16 trillion dollars.

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

As noted earlier, the power granted to Congress to regulate commerce has been greatly abused.  In order to properly understand the original meaning and purpose of this provision we must first understand the meaning of the word commerce. How would the Framers have understood the word? What was its meaning in their day? In Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755), the standard dictionary on both sides of the Atlantic at the time, commerce is defined as, “exchange of one thing for another; interchange of any thing; trade; traffick.”[24] Similarly, Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of The English Language (1828) defines commerce as “an interchange or mutual change of goods, wares, productions, or property of any kind, between nations or individuals, either by barter, or by purchase and sale; trade; traffick.” Various legal authorities of the period likewise use the word “commerce” to mean the buying and selling of goods.
What kind of commerce does the commerce clause refer to? “Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”
The Founders’ concern for commerce with foreign Nations was expressed very early. In 1765, for instance, in reaction to the passage of the Stamp Act, representatives from several of the colonies gathered in New York to form what has come to be called the “Stamp Act Congress,” which was in fact the very first congress of the American colonies. The delegates drafted a document entitled the “Declaration of Rights and Grievances.” The document was “a humble application to both houses of parliament to procure the repeal” of various laws that resulted in “the restriction of the American commerce” with the mother country and with foreign nations.
But the Founders’ interest in commerce “among the several States” was also a great concern. As Adam Freedman points out,

The regulation of commerce was the very issue that brought the delegates to Philadelphia in the first place. In the years following the Revolution, the states had erected so many protectionist barriers against each other that the Republic’s economy was in jeopardy. Under the Articles of Confederation, however, Congress was powerless to intervene.
In 1786 delegates from five states—New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—met in Annapolis to consider the problem. After a brief session, they passed a resolution calling for a new convention the following May in Philadelphia, with the express purpose of devising a uniform system of “commercial regulations” throughout the states.[25]

Freedman says further:

The innovative part of the commerce clause was the power to regulate not only foreign and Indian commerce but also commerce “among the several States”—a power that the Congress lacked under the Articles of Confederation. The other parts of the clause—regulation of trade with foreign nations and Indian tribes—existed in earlier documents.[26]

The Framers’ intent in granting Congress the power to regulate commerce was to insure a uniform policy with respect to both international as well as interstate trade.
With respect to international trade, instead of each state developing its own trade agreements with foreign nations, Congress would negotiate such agreements on their behalf. One agreement would apply to all the states.  This would prevent envy and rivalry between the states if some should be able to negotiate more favorable terms for a trade agreement with a foreign nation than another. In addition, with all the states acting together, they had a position of greater strength in their negotiations.
Congress is also given the power to regulate interstate trade (“trade among the several States”). Again, the aim of Congress was to have a uniform policy that applied to all the states equally instead of each state developing its own policies with different states, thus greatly complicating and hindering trade, and consequently tending to injure the prosperity of all the states.
Madison made clear in Federalist 42 that “commerce among the States” meant commerce “between State and State,” that is, between people of different states. It did not mean commerce within a state, but commerce between people buying, selling, trading, or bartering across state lines.
However, as early as 1824, in Gibbons v. Ogden, Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the commerce clause applied whenever a state’s internal commerce might “affect other States.” By 1937 the Supreme Court ruled in NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin that “no field of regulation was ‘forbidden’ to Congress as long as there was some connection to commerce.”[27]
Perhaps the case that best illustrates just how expansively the commerce clause has been interpreted is the (in)famous Wickard v. Filburn (1942). The case was decided 9-0. The decision was written by Justice Robert Jackson. The case involved a small Ohio farmer named Roscoe C. Filburn.

Filburn maintained a herd of dairy cattle, raised poultry, and sold milk, poultry, and eggs in the open market. He planted a small acreage of winter wheat that he fed to his chickens and cattle, ground into flour for his family’s consumption, and saved for the following year’s seed. Filburn did not sell a single bushel of wheat in the open market. In 1941, Filburn sowed twelve acres of wheat more than he was permitted by Second Agricultural Adjustment Act’s regulations.[28] This unauthorized planting yielded 239 bushels of wheat, on which the federal government imposed a penalty of 49 cents a bushel. Filburn contested the government’s assessment, arguing that the federal power to regulate commerce did not extend to the production and consumption of wheat that was never marketed.
Jackson held for the Court in Wickard that the quota on wheat authorized by the Second Agricultural Adjustment Act was constitutional under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which permitted Congress to “regulate Commerce…among the several States.” Jackson maintained that wheat consumed but not marketed still had an effect upon interstate commerce and thus could be regulated… In the early 1940s more than 20 percent of all the wheat grown in the country never left the farm. By consuming their own grain, Filburn and thousands of farmers like him cut the overall demand and depressed the market price of wheat. Their actions clearly affected interstate commerce and were, Jackson concluded, subject to federal regulation.[29]

In Wickard, Justice Jackson wrote that the commerce power “is not confined in its exercise to the regulation of commerce among the States,” even though this is precisely what the Constitution says:  “The Congress shall have Power…To regulate Commerce…among the several States.”

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

Naturalization is “the process by which a person acquires nationality after birth and becomes entitled to the privileges of citizenship.”[30]
Bankruptcy is a legal status in which a person or organization “is unable to pay his debts as they are, or become, due…and is liable to be proceeded against by his creditors.”[31] It is desirable to have a uniform standard for bankruptcy so that a person who is unable to pay his debts may not simply flee for protection from his creditors to another state that has a different standard.

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

The power to coin money is the power to establish an official currency, which in the United States is the Dollar. In Japan it is the Yen, in Mexico it is the Peso, in Europe it is the Euro, etc.
The English system of weights and measures was adopted by Congress in 1838 as the uniform standard for the United States. The English system includes the ounce, the pound, the foot, yard, mile, quart, gallon, etc. In 1866 Congress also legalized the use of the metric system. It is typical to find the weights and measurements of products sold in the United States in both the English and Metric system.

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;

Copyright laws and patent laws are designed to encourage publication and invention by guaranteeing authors and inventors the exclusive right to publish, sell, or reproduce their works. Under current law, copyrights are good for 70 years after the death of the author and patents are good for 17 years.

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

The only court created by the Constitution is the Supreme Court. This clause gives Congress the power to establish lower courts. We will consider the establishment of the various lower courts when we discuss Article III.

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

The federal government is better suited to deal with these matters than are state governments. The “Law of Nations” refers to internationally recognized laws governing the relationship of between one nation and another.

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

Although the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States military, he does not have the power to declare war and commit our armed forces to battle without a prior act of Congress. However, once Congress makes a declaration of war, the President is ultimately responsible for how the war is to be conducted.
 “Letters of Marque and Reprisal” were licenses authorizing private individuals to arm vessels in time of war to attack and capture enemy ships and cargo and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale. Such a person was called a “privateer.” The profits of such seizures would be split between the privateer and the federal government, which would use the acquisitions to fund the war effort. Privateering differed from piracy in that the latter was for one’s own personal profit and was done in both wartime and peace.

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

The primary duty of government is to protect its citizens against those who would do them harm by criminal behavior or foreign invasion. A police force and a judicial system are necessary for the former and a military force for the latter.
The Constitution authorizes Congress to “raise and support Armies.” Experience taught the Founders that if Congress has the power to declare war, it must also have the power to call men into active military service. Under the Articles of Confederation Congress was authorized to declare war, but not to raise an army. This was left to the several states. Congress could make requests of the several states to supply men at arms, but had no power to act independently of the states to raise the necessary money and support for a national military. This arrangement was woefully inefficient and proved to be detrimental to the War for Independence.
It is important to notice the Constitution’s separation of powers with respect to the military. The President serves as the Commander-in-Chief (Art. 2, Sec. 2), but can neither raise troops on his own authority, nor commit them to military action without a prior declaration of war by Congress. Furthermore, no appropriation of money for military use can be authorized for a period of longer than two years. By controlling the purse strings, Congress insures that the President cannot prolong a war indefinitely, nor use the armed forces to set up a military dictatorship.
The Supreme Court has held that Congress’ power to “raise and support Armies” extends to imposing a military draft, i.e., compulsory military service. This is often referred to as “conscription.” The U.S. first used conscription at a national level during the War Between the States. The vast majority of Union troops were volunteers. But of the 2.1 million soldiers during war, 2% were draftees, while another 6% were substitutes paid by draftees.
The draft was not used again until World War I, at which time the Selective Service Act of 1917 was passed. The draft ended the following year, though young men were still required to register for the draft. The first peacetime draft was imposed in 1940. During World War II, 50 million men between the ages of 18 and 45 were registered, and 10 million were drafted. The draft was also used during the Cold War and continued until 1973.
 The current Selective Service System requires young men to register for the possibility of a military draft. Registration must take place within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

To provide and maintain a Navy;

The nation requires a navy for the protection of our coasts, overseas trade, and the projection of military power overseas when necessary.

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

The President commands the military, but must do so under the rules imposed by Congress (i.e., rules of engagement; etc.).

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

At the time of the founding, there were very few people who believed that the United States should keep a large standing army.[32] It was believed that the costs of maintaining such an army would prove to be too high and that the dangers posed to liberty too great. Instead, armies would be raised and supported as the need arose. In times of peace, local communities would train its citizens in the art of war so that there would be a reserve of men prepared to be called into action. These local units were called militias. 

All able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five by tradition have made up the unorganized militia. Each state has an organized militia called the National Guard. Both men and women can become members of the National Guard. The state governor is command in chief of the National Guard in each state.
Congress may call the organized militia into federal service for three purposes:  to execute federal laws, to suppress insurrection, and to repel invasion.
When called into federal service, the National Guard is under the authority of the President. As a part of the armed forces of the United States, the National Guard can be sent outside the boundaries of the United States.[33]

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;


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

This paragraph authorizes Congress to have exclusive legislative control over “such District…as may…become the Seat of the Government of the United States.” The federal government must be located somewhere. If it is located in a particular state, it would necessarily tend toward the advantage of that state over all the others. In order to avoid this, the Constitution provided that a district might be set aside by one or more states to accommodate the needs of federal government. The states of Virginia and Maryland ceded a portion of their respective territories for this purpose and the District of Columbia was formed. The District included two existing settlements:  Georgetown and Alexandria. Alexandria was returned to Virginia in 1846. The city that is home to the nation’s government was named in honor of George Washington. Congress has given substantial self-government to the city since 1975. It now has an elected mayor, city council, and school board, but Congress has the right to veto local legislation and retains the general oversight of the budget.
The paragraph also authorizes Congress to govern all federal property in the United States and in all possessions of the United States (National Parks; federal military installations; U.S. embassies; etc.).

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 Constitution does not contain—nor was it its aim to do so—all the laws necessary for Congress to carry out its powers. But this paragraph ensures that Congress shall have the power to make whatever laws are necessary in order to do whatever the Constitution authorizes it to do. However, like the General Welfare clause and the Commerce clause, the Necessary and Proper clause has been greatly abused as a pretext for Congress to do whatever it wishes. The clause is not used to do this by itself, but in combination with the others.

The clause has been interpreted to give Congress power to make laws regulating conditions which were not present at the time the Constitution was written. Under this clause, Congress has regulated railroads, airlines, radio and television broadcasting, telephone and telegraph communication, and many other developments which were unforeseen at the time the Constitution was written.[34]




Section 9.

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

This paragraph prohibited Congress from outlawing the importation of slaves until the year 1808, twenty years after ratification. The provision was necessary in order to gain support for ratification from the slaveholding states. The provision did not require the abolition of slavery in 1808; nor did it prohibit the importation of slaves after that date. It only prohibited Congress from passing legislation outlawing the importation of slaves until then. In other words, the matter of the importation of slaves was something the framers left to a future Congress to decide. As a matter of fact, Congress passed an act in 1807 that outlawed the slave trade, and the act took effect the following year. By the terms of this provision, however, Congress was permitted to impose a tax on each slave imported into the United States, but not in excess of ten dollars a head.

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.

This paragraph guarantees a remedy against illegal arrest and confinement. A “writ” is an order issued by a court. Habeas corpus is short for habeas corpus ad subjiciendum, “[that] you may have or hold the body to be subjected [to examination].” The writ is “directed to the person detaining another, and commanding him to produce the body of the prisoner, with the day and cause of his caption and detention…to do, submit to, and receive whatsoever the judge or court awarding such writ shall consider in that behalf.”[35] “The primary function of the writ is to release from unlawful imprisonment.”[36] Its purpose is not to determine the prisoner’s guilt or innocence, but only whether or not he is restrained of his liberty by a due process of law. Throughout history tyrannical rulers have often arrested and detained personal or political opponents even when those opponents had not committed any crimes worthy of arrest. Blackstone calls habeas corpus “the most celebrated writ in the English law.” Justice Story refers to it as “the great bulwark of personal liberty.”[37] And then he adds,

But as it had often, for frivolous reasons of state, been suspended or denied in the parent country [England], to the grievous oppression of the subject, it is made a matter of constitutional right [in the U.S.] in all cases, except when the public safety may, in cases of rebellion or invasion, require it.

The right of habeas corpus has been suspended on a number of occasions. President Lincoln suspended it in Maryland during the Civil War in response to the threat that the state would secede, leaving Washington, D.C. surrounded by hostile territory.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

A bill of attainder, in its technical sense, is an act passed by the legislature, convicting a person of some crime, for which it inflicts upon him, without any trial, the punishment of death. If it inflicts a milder punishment, it is usually called a bill of pains and penalties. Such acts are in the highest degree objectionable, and tyrannical, since they deprive the party of any regular trial by jury, and deprive him of his life, liberty, and property, without any legal proof of his guilt.[38]

Ex post facto laws are laws made “after the fact.”

The phrase is here used to designate laws to punish, as public offences, acts, which, at the time when they were done, were lawful, or were not public crimes, or, if crimes, which were not liable to so severe a punishment.[39]

An example of an ex post facto law would be a state legislature passing law prohibiting the production and sale of tobacco products for chewing or smoking, and then arresting and punishing those who did so prior to the passage of the law. Another example would be a state passing legislation permitting the death penalty to be used in the case of murder, and then executing prisoners who had committed murder prior to the law being passed. Laws cannot be applied retroactively. They can only be applied from the moment they took effect.


The word “capitation” is derived from the Latin caput, meaning “head”. A capitation tax is a “head tax,” or a tax levied on a person. It is a uniform, fixed amount per person taxed. “Other direct” taxes are taxes levied directly by the federal government (e.g., on land or other kinds of property), as opposed to taxes on events (e.g., “duties, imports, and excises”). Whatever capitation or other direct tax Congress might impose had to be “in Proportion to the Census.”
In 1894 Congress passed the Income Tax Act which levied a tax on income derived from property, but in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co. (1895), the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional according to the provisions of this paragraph. An income tax was ruled to be a direct tax levied without regard to “Proportion to the Census.” The Sixteenth Amendment, adopted in 1913, struck out the words “unless in Proportion to the Census,” etc., and states:

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

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.


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.

Nobility is a social class possessing greater rights and privileges than other classes in society. The rights and privileges of nobility are usually heredity, giving a family distinct social, political, and economic advantages over others. Titles of nobility (King, Duke, Prince, Marquis, Count, Baron, etc.) caused untold mischief in the history of the nations of Europe and our Founders wisely wished to avoid the same troubles by preventing the granting of such titles.


Section 10.

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.



No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.


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.




[1] This division of the legislative branch of the federal government into two chambers is called bicameralism (Latin, bi, two + camera, chamber)
[2] Joseph Story, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, p. 70
[1] Nebraska is unique. It is the only state that has only one legislative chamber.
[2] A freeman was someone who possessed all the rights of participation in civil government.  In some of the colonies, the status of “freeman” was granted to new settlers after a probationary period, during which they must demonstrate good behavior. They must demonstrate that they are law-abiding and productive members of society. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, one of the qualifications for becoming a freeman was being a member in good standing of a church.
[3] The chief way in which colonial and state legislatures raised revenue was through levying property taxes. It was believed that if one paid taxes, he should be permitted to vote in order to have a say in how his tax dollars were being spent, or whether his taxes should be increased or reduced. On the other hand, it was believed that if a man did not pay taxes, he should not be allowed to vote and thus have a say in how other people’s tax dollars were to be used, or how much they should pay in taxes.
[4] In no state, however, were women, indentured servants, or slaves permitted to vote.
[5] Having a child for a ruler was thought a curse (Eccles. 10:16; Isa. 3:4, 12).
[6] Joseph Story, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, p. 85-86
[7] Joseph Story, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, p. 95
[8] Representatives and Senators, however, may run for reelection.
[9] Seventeenth Amendment, paragraph 2
[10] Joseph Story, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, 102
[11] Sol Bloom and Lars Johnson, The Story of the Constitution, p. 101
[12] Congress submitted the text of this Amendment as a part of the proposed Bill of Rights on September 25, 1789, but did not receive the support necessary for ratification along with the first ten Amendments, which became effective on December 15, 1791. The 27th Amendment was ratified on May 7, 1992, by the vote of Michigan.
[13] Joseph Story, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, p. 120
[14] American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828
[15] William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, edited by William Carey Jones, p. 2270
[16] Black’s Law Dictionary
[17] The U.S. does not have a national sales tax, but 46 states do. Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Oregon are the exceptions. The sales tax in Kansas is 6.30%. Many local communities also charge sales tax. The total sales tax in Pratt is 8.05%. In Clearwater it is 7.30%
[18] The federal government imposes a tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline. The state of Kansas imposes an additional 25 cents per gallon. So then, for every gallon of gasoline purchased in Kansas 43.4 cents is paid in federal and state excise taxes. The taxes on diesel are even higher. The rationale for a tax on the sale of motor fuel is to pay for the upkeep of the state and federal roadways. The rationale for excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products is to discourage their purchase and use.
[19] Recent examples include the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of 2008 and the government takeover of General Motors.
[20] The “general Welfare” is also mentioned in the Preamble.
[21] Art. 1, Sec. 8, par. 3
[22] Art. 1, Sec. 8, par. 19.
[23] Brutus, No. VI. “Brutus” was probably Judge Robert Yates of New York.
[24] http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=8797
[25] Adam Freedman, The Naked Constitution, pp. 47-48
[26] Adam Freedman, The Naked Constitution, p. 49
[27] Adam Freedman, The Naked Constitution, p. 54
[28] The Agricultural Adjustment Act restricted agricultural production by paying farmers not to plant part of their land and to kill off “excess” livestock.
[29] John W. Johnson in The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, edited by Kermit L. Hall (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 930
[30] Black’s Law Dictionary
[31] Black’s Law Dictionary
[32] A “standing army” means an army composed of full-time career soldiers who serve in both war and peace.
[33] Sol Bloom and Lars Johnson, The Story of the Constitution, p. 109
[34] Sol Bloom and Lars Johnson, The Story of the Constitution, p. 110
[35] William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of the Laws of England, vol. 2, p. 1676
[36] Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 638
[37] Justice Joseph Story, A Familiar Exposition of The Constitution of the United States, p. 186
[38] Ibid., p. 187
[39] Ibid., p. 187

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