We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
If you only remember three words of the Constitution, they should probably be "We the People." Those first three words of the Preamble establish the most important concept of American government, the idea (known as "popular sovereignty") that all government power derives only from the consent of the people. "We the People" created this Constitution to establish a government (in Abraham Lincoln's famous words) "
of the people, by the people, for the people."
We're taking an up-close look at Article 1, Section 1 of the US Constitution
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.
Congress, and only Congress, has the power to make laws. And the Congress is a bicameral legislative body—that is, it's divided into two chambers, the House and the Senate. ("Bicameral" is just a fancy Latin word that means "two chambers.")
We're taking an up-close look at Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution.
Clause 1. 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.
Every two years, voters ("Electors") get a chance to cast ballots to determine who will represent them in the House of Representatives. The last bit about "Qualifications requisite" just means that each state must allow anyone who can legally vote in state elections also to vote for US Representative; the states aren't allowed to limit voting rights for US House elections to a small elite.
Clause 2. 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.
Here are the job requirements for serving in the House: You need to be 25 years old, you need to have been a citizen for at least seven years, and you need to live in the state you want to represent in Congress. That's it!
Clause 3. 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.
Bad spellers of the world, untie! Er, unite! Notice that even our esteemed Founding Fathers had a unique way of spelling "chuse." Moving on to the important stuff… this clause simply establishes that representation in the House is apportioned on the basis of population; that is, the more populous the state, the more seats it gets in the House. As you can see, in the First Congress of 1789, that meant that Virginia got ten seats and Massachusetts got eight, while Rhode Island and Delaware got just one each. Today, California (the most populous state) has 53 congressional seats, while seven states (Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Delaware) have only one each. This clause also requires that a Census be taken every ten years, to count the population in each state in order to ensure that each state's representation in Congress remains proportional to its population, even as state populations change over time. (In recent decades, for example, fast-growing southern and western states have gained seats, while many northeastern states have lost them.)
Finally, take a close look at the crossed-out bits of this clause. They're crossed out because later amendments to the Constitution repealed them or made them obsolete. The brief mention of "Direct taxes" in the first sentence long made it impossible for the government to use a tax system like the one we have today, since it required taxes to be charged in proportion to each state's population, rather than in proportion to each individual's income. Only the passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913 got rid of this requirement, making it possible for the government to create the modern income tax system. (Oh happy day!) The longer crossed-out sentence is a remnant of the infamous three-fifths compromise, which allowed slave states to count three-fifths of their slave populations for the purpose of congressional apportionment, even though those slaves obviously had no democratic voting rights. The Framers of the Constitution were careful not to use the words "slave" or "slavery" anywhere in the document, instead referring here to slaves euphemistically as "all other Persons." The passage of the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery following the Civil War, finally struck this offensive passage from the Constitution.
Clause 4. When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
If a congressional seat should become vacant in the middle of a term, for whatever reason, the state's governor (a.k.a. "the Executive Authority thereof") is supposed to call a special election to fill the vacancy.
Clause 5. The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, this clause includes two important elements that seemingly have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. First, the House of Representatives has the power to choose its own leaders; customarily, the majority party chooses its leader to serve as the Speaker of the House. Second, the House of Representatives—and only the House of Representatives—has the power to impeach executive and judicial officers deemed unfit for office. (To "impeach" means to accuse; if the House does vote to impeach, the Senate must then decide whether or not to convict and remove the person from office.)
Bust out your magnifying glass. We're taking an up-close look at Article 1, Section 3 of the US Constitution.
Clause 1. 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.
Each state, regardless of population, gets two seats in the Senate. Each senator's term lasts six years. And note the crossed-out bit: originally, senators were not elected by the people but were instead chosen by their state legislatures. This led, by the end of the nineteenth century, to widespread accusations of corruption. The 17th Amendment, an important Progressive Era reform passed in 1913, allowed for the direct election of senators by the people.
Clause 2. 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 the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
This isn't as complicated as it sounds. The idea is simply to ensure that one third of the Senate's seats are up for election every two years, making the Senate a "continuing body." That just means that all the senators will never face election at the same time. The deleted section at the end was overwritten by the The 17th Amendment, which allowed direct election of senators in 1913. The The 17th Amendment requires any Senate vacancy to be filled in a special election called by the state's governor.
Clause 3. 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.
Basic job requirements for the Senate: You have to be at least 30 years old, a citizen for at least nine years, and a resident of the state you want to represent.
Clause 4. The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
The vice president has a pretty useless role in the government… unless the president dies, of course. Otherwise, the VP's role is largely ceremonial; he gets the cool-sounding title "President of the Senate," but he doesn't actually get to participate in its debates or cast a vote, except in the rare circumstance of a tie vote. Most vice presidents thus opt not to bother even showing up in the Senate, except on special occasions.
Clause 5. The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.
The Senate's president pro tem—typically a senior senator of the majority party—gets to run the show when the VP of the United States isn't in the house… which, in practice, is almost always. The Senate also has the power to choose (or "chuse," if you prefer) its other officers.
Clause 6. 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.
If the House of Representatives votes to impeach any civil officer, the Senate must serve as judge and jury. If two-thirds of the senators vote to convict, the impeached official is removed from office. Twice in American history, the House has brought impeachment charges against sitting presidents—Andrew Johnson in 1868, and Bill Clinton in 1998. In both cases, the Senate voted not to convict, and the impeached presidents served out their full terms of office.
Clause 7. 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.
The only punishments the Senate is allowed to mete out in impeachment cases are removal from office and banishment from future government service. However, the regular courts could also then seek to impose further criminal penalties for wrongdoing.
We're taking an up-close look at Article 1, Section 4 of the US Constitution.
Clause 1. 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.
The Constitution generally leaves it up to the states to organize congressional elections, but gives Congress the power to set new rules for federal elections as it sees fit. In 1842, Congress passed an important law requiring single-member district elections in every state, standardizing congressional election practices nationwide. The same law set one standard Election Day—the Tuesday after the first Monday in November—throughout the country. We still use the same Election Day today.
Clause 2. 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.
This clause requires at least one session of Congress to meet each year. The 20th Amendment, passed in 1933, moved the standard opening day from the first Monday in December to January 3.
We're taking an up-close look at Article 1, Section 5 of the US Constitution.
Clause 1. 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.
This clause has two separate and seemingly unrelated parts. First, the House and the Senate are given the power to judge the qualifications of their own members. In the case of a disputed Senate election, for example, in which both candidates claim to have won the vote, it is ultimately up to the Senate itself to decide which candidate gets the seat. Second, a majority of either chamber's membership is required to be present to constitute a quorum. Congress can continue to conduct business with less than a quorum present, but any member can then issue a "quorum call," requiring either that a majority of the members actually show up or that the house takes a temporary adjournment.
Clause 2. 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.
The House and the Senate have the power to set their own rules of parliamentary procedure. Over the course of 200+ years of American history, those rules have grown quite complex. The House and the Senate also have the power to kick out their own members for bad acts; expulsion requires a two-thirds vote.
Clause 3. 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.
Both chambers of Congress must publish an official record of their proceedings. The Congressional Record is published daily while either house is in session, documenting all official activity on the floor of either house.
Clause 4. 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.
Neither the House nor the Senate can go out on extended vacation while the other remains in business, unless the other chamber approves. The idea here is to prevent one house from obstructing the other's legislation simply by refusing to show up to work.
We're taking an up-close look at Article 1, Section 6 of the US Constitution.
Clause 1. 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.
Here we have another odd mash-up of two apparently unrelated points in one clause. First, congressmen get paid by the government, at a salary they set themselves. (The The 27th Amendment, proposed in 1789 and ratified 223 years later (!) in 1992, put some restrictions on congressmen's ability to give themselves pay raises.) Second, congressmen have "legislative immunity"; that is, they cannot be charged with a crime for anything they say in Congress, and they cannot be arrested or harassed by the police unless they have committed treason or other serious crimes. The idea here is to ensure that the president can't abuse his powers by arresting or jailing legislators who disagree with him.
Clause 2. 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.
People serving in office in either executive or judicial branches of the US government cannot also simultaneously serve in Congress, and vice versa. The idea here is to ensure the separation of powers between the three branches of government. Furthermore, a member of Congress can't resign from his seat in order to take another government job if that job has had its salary increased during his term. That rule is designed to prevent corruption, making it impossible for a congressman to vote in favor of a pay raise for a certain executive office, then move into that office himself.
We're taking an up-close look at Article 1, Section 7 of the US Constitution.
Clause 1. 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.
All tax and tariff legislation must originate in the House of Representatives, although the Senate retains its normal power to amend any bill sent to it from the House. In modern practice, this requirement isn't very significant.
Clause 2. 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. 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.
How a bill becomes a law: Both houses of Congress have to pass it, then send it to the president. If the president signs it, it becomes law. If the president vetoes it, it goes back to Congress, where a two-thirds vote can override his veto. Or, if the president simply does nothing, the bill becomes law without his signature after ten days. (Not counting Sundays, of course.) If Congress adjourns less than ten days after sending the president a bill, he can apply a so-called "pocket veto" simply by refusing to sign it; the normal provision by which a bill becomes law even without presidential signature after ten days does not take effect if Congress adjourns before the ten days are up. Still confused? Watch the cartoon!
Clause 3. 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.
Joint resolutions of Congress are special measures passed under special circumstances, unlike regular bills of law. They're still supposed to be sent to the president for his signature, however; a joint resolution signed by the president has the force of law. A simple resolution of Congress not sent to the president for his signature does not have the force of law.
We're taking an up-close look at Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution.
Clause 1. 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 very first power given to Congress by the Constitution is the power to tax. Money is power, and in the governmental structure created by the Constitution, Congress—not the president—controls the money. Congress also has the power to levy tariffs (taxes on imported goods) but it's not allowed to charge more for imports into one state than into another. The Framers of the Constitution probably put the tax power first on the list of Congress's enumerated powers because they were acutely aware that one of the biggest problems of the old Articles of Confederation was that its version of Congress did not have the power to tax, and thus didn't have the power to do much of anything at all.
Clause 2. To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
Congress is allowed to go into debt to pay for government programs and services. Deficit spending by the government was fairly rare in peacetime through much of American history, but has been quite common in recent decades.
Clause 3. To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
Congress has the power to impose regulations on interstate and international business. This "interstate commerce clause" has been quite controversial in the history of constitutional law; for a long time, judges tended to read the clause narrowly, overturning federal laws they deemed focused mainly on regulating economic activity within states rather than between them. Since the 1930s, however, judges have tended to read the clause broadly, allowing the government to regulate all kinds of economic activity—by setting a national minimum wage, for example.
Clause 4. To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
Another clause that seems to bring together two things that have little in common. First, Congress has the power to set up a process for immigrants to become American citizens. (The idea that America is a "nation of immigrants" is thus embedded right in the Constitution.) Second, Congress has the power to set rules for hopelessly indebted people and businesses to declare bankruptcy. In 2005, Congress used that power to change bankruptcy law; it's now much harder for individuals to escape credit card debts by declaring bankruptcy.
Clause 5. To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
Congress controls the minting of money and (theoretically) sets its value. In practice, the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank in 1913 transferred most of the power over setting the value of the dollar to the Fed. Congress also gets to set standards of weights and measures; in the 1970s, this became controversial, as traditionalists in Congress blocked President Jimmy Carter's attempts to begin a switchover to the metric system.
Clause 6. To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
Printers of funny money beware!
Clause 7.To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
For most of the first century of American independence, the Post Office was by far the largest and most important organization within the federal government. Congress has the power to set up Post Offices and to build roads connecting them.
Clause 8. 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;
Congress has the power to set up a system of copyrights and patents, granting creative people the exclusive right to sell their creations.
Clause 9. To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
This means that Congress has the power to set up lower-level federal courts that report to the Supreme Court. That court system has grown over time; today there are twelve circuit Courts of Appeals, plus 94 federal District Courts, plus dozens of other special courts.
Clause 10. To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
Congress has the power to punish pirates. Amazingly, after a period of hundreds of years when piracy seemed to be a thing of the past, in 2009 piracy once again became a hot topic when Somali pirates began targeting merchant ships off the Horn of Africa.
Clause 11. To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
This clause grants Congress one of its most important powers: the power to declare war. Congress, and only Congress, can officially do so. (The President can't!) This clause also grants Congress one of its more bizarre powers: the power to hire pirates to attack the nation's enemies. (That's what a "Letter of Marque" is... a letter that gives a pirate official permission to do his thing in the name of the national interest. Avast, ye mateys!)
Clause 12. To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
The Founding Fathers were really worried about the danger of standing armies, the kind of permanent professional armed forces that had, they felt, been used by the British monarchy to oppress them before the Revolution. So they carefully divided the power to control the military between the executive and legislative branches; the president is Commander-in-Chief but only Congress has the authority to pay (or not pay) for military actions. Further, Congress cannot fund military operations more than two years in the future.
Clause 13. To provide and maintain a Navy;
This one's pretty self-explanatory.
Clause 14. To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
Congress has the power to set rules for the behavior of the armed forces. From 1806-1951, those rules were contained in a law called the Articles of War. Since 1951, they have been contained within the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Any soldiers or sailors who violate those rules face court-martial.
Clause 15. To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
Congress has the power to call out the militia—organized units of citizen soldiers—to defend the nation from attack or armed rebellion. In modern times, the militia has been replaced by the National Guard.
Clause 16. 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;
Control over the militia is divided between Congress and the state governments. If the militia is called into national service, Congress pays for it and governs its actions. The states, however, retain control over who serves as its officers and how its men are trained. These distinctions were probably more important in the 1790s than they are today.
Clause 17. 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;
Congress has the power to set up a national capital of the United States that is outside the jurisdiction of any state. (Congress used this power to create Washington, DC, on swampland along the Potomac River that was originally part of Maryland.) Congress also has ultimate authority over all federal military facilities, even if they're located within particular states. And that "--And" means were getting almost to the end of this long list of Congress's enumerated powers.
Clause 18. 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.
This, the so-called "elastic clause," is the basis for all of the legislative branch's implied powers (powers not explicitly listed in the Constitution but held to be legitimate because they are "necessary and proper" for the Congress to exercise the other powers that are listed here. Over time, this clause has been used to justify a gradual expansion in the general power of Congress and the entire federal government.
We're taking an up-close look at Article 1, Section 9 of the US Constitution.
Clause 1. 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 is another euphemistic nod to America's dark history of slavery. "Such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit" is a really long-winded way of saying "slaves" without actually saying "slaves." The Constitution barred any attempt to outlaw the slave trade before 1808. As soon as that date rolled around, Congress did vote to block the international slave trade, although slaves continued to be sold within the country and slavery itself lasted for almost another 60 years.
Clause 2. 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.
The Writ of Habeas Corpus is perhaps the most important foundation of civil liberties. "Habeas corpus" is a Latin term meaning "you shall have the body"; in practice, the right to Habeas corpus means that you can't be held in jail without facing legitimate charges of some kind—there is no such thing as indefinite detention without due legal process. Violations of habeas have been quite controversial in American history. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln (in one of his most criticized moves ever) suspended habeas; during the War on Terror, George W. Bush controversially argued that terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had no right to habeas and thus could be held indefinitely without trial.
Clause 3. No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
A bill of attainder is a law that simply declares, by legislative fiat, that certain people are guilty of a crime and then imposes some kind of punishment upon them. In other words, it's a way for a legislature to act like judge and jury, convicting and punishing people without benefit of trial. Bills of attainder used to be used occasionally by the British Parliament; the American Founding Fathers viewed them as terrible violations of liberty and banned them from the United States.
An ex post facto law is a law that retroactively criminalizes a certain act after it has already been committed. In other words, it would allow a person to be prosecuted for doing something that wasn't actually illegal yet at the time they did it. The framers of the Constitution viewed ex post facto laws, like bills of attainder, as blatant abuses of power and banned them.
Clause 4. No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
A capitation tax is a "head tax," one charged to each individual in the population. This clause required Congress to levy any taxes on the basis of a state's population, not on the basis of individual income or any other standard. The 16th Amendment, passed in 1913, struck the reference to "other direct Tax[es]", making it possible to create the modern personal income tax system that we know and love today.
Clause 5. No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.
Southern economies at the time of the Constitutional Convention depended upon the export of cash crops like cotton, tobacco, rice, and indigo. Those states insisted that the Constitution ensure that those exports wouldn't be taxed by the national government. In the so-called Commerce Compromise, the northern states agreed. Congress does have the power to tax imports, though.
Clause 6. 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.
This clause is designed to ensure that all states are treated fairly by the national government. Congress can't charge taxes for shipping goods from one state to another, and it can't favor one state's ports over another through preferential regulations or taxes.
Clause 7. No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.
This clause is critically important, granting Congress (and only Congress) the "power of the purse"—that is, control over government spending. The president can't get his hands on one dime of the public's money without Congress first approving that spending in an appropriations bill. Congress's control over the government's money is perhaps the most important check against unlimited presidential power.
Clause 8. 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.
Here the Framers of the Constitution sought to ensure that the United States would never develop a formal aristocracy such as that which ruled Britain. The US government cannot grant any titles of nobility; here in America, we have no counts or dukes or earls. Further, no one working for the government is allowed to accept a grant of nobility from a foreign government, either. This was mainly included as an attempt to block foreign corruption of US government officials.
We're taking an up-close look at Article 1, Section 10 of the US Constitution.
Clause 1. 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.
Under the Constitution, only the federal government (not the various state governments) has the power to conduct foreign diplomacy or print money. And the states are barred from doing many of the same things that the federal government also can't do: they can't pass bills of attainder or ex post facto laws, they can't pass laws that break contracts, and they can't grant state-level titles of nobility. This clause is included mainly to ensure that the states don't start acting like independent countries, undermining the national government.
Clause 2. 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 its 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 Control of the Congress.
Again, the states aren't independent nations, so they can't charge tariffs on imports from other states.
Clause 3. 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.
And last but not least, the states aren't allowed to run their own armies or start their own wars.
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