1. -1791- Freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, to assemble, and to petition.
a. The first amendment states that the federal government does not enforce the people to follow a religion. It also allows citizens to speak, print, and protest freely, ideally without any restrictions. The amendment was the first step in creating a democracy; it established vital rights for the people that they did not have under British rule. People could now voice their opinions and rally for change and revolution without reprimand. The following generations take these rights for granted yet they remain as invaluable in the 21st century as they were in the 18th century.
2. -1791- The right to keep and bear arms.
a. The government gave people the right to bear weapons for self-defense and protection. Keeping with historical tradition, our forefathers included that men had the right to arm themselves for the revolution was won with artillery. The amendment also insinuates that every citizen is also a soldier that should serve to protect their liberties and the liberties of others. In this sense, the second amendment can be seen as a right and a duty to the country.
3. -1791- No quartering of soldiers in private houses during times of peace.
a. Like the other amendments in the Bill of Rights, this amendment is also a result of the American Revolution. The law restricts the quartering of soldiers in private homes during times of peace because it was a pressing issue in the 18th century. The Quartering Act was extremely unpopular in colonial America; thus the third amendment was included to ensure that a similar law would not replace it. Now the amendment is largely unreferenced but it did provide a foundation of privacy for citizens, an aspect that people can appreciate now.
4. -1791- Interdiction of unreasonable searches and seizures; warrants.
a. The fourth amendment further protects the privacy of Americans by restricting unwarranted searches and unreasonable arrests. This made the process of arrest and search more fair and organized. There was no such law in colonial America. Hence, people were seized without concrete evidence and houses were ransacked without reason. The amendment reserved power for citizens to create a balance between the people and state.
5. -1791- Trial and Punishment; Self-incrimination.
a. This amendment states that a grand jury is needed to determine if there is enough evidence to execute a trial, a person may not be tried for the same offense twice, and a defendant has a right not to incriminate him or herself. People are protected from double jeopardy because a verdict from a jury should be final; the prosecution is unable to appeal once a decision is made. To avoid self-incrimination, defendants have the right to remain silent for many people were tortured and forced to confess crimes in the past. There are many other sections to the Fifth Amendment, overall it serves to protect the rights of the people in and out of the courtroom.
6. -1791- Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses.
a. The Sixth Amendment prevents cases from being delayed for an extended period of time, allows witnesses to be cross-examined, and allows the defense to have a right to a jury. These rights create an organized procedure in prosecution cases in the various court systems. Our forefathers were very familiar with the government abusing its power and authority to incriminate innocent people. This was an important top priority to include rules referencing to the criminal court procedure.
7. -1791- Right to trial by jury in civil cases
a. The amendment ensures people have a right to a jury. As a result, a defendant’s fate does not rely only on the judge but a collection of people. This amendment was clearly influence by the Magna Carta in stating that “that rights of the jury shall be preserved”. Like the Magna Carta, the 7th Amendment aims to protect a free citizen and his or her rights. Although colonial America did struggle and fight to break the ties they had with Britain, they modeled their new government after the British Empire.
8. -1791- No excessive bail ; fines or cruel ; unusual punishment.
a. Inspired by the English Bill of Rights, the United States’ found fathers established that the punishment or fine shall fit the crime. The government cannot take advantage of their power and impose excessive bails and fines. The punishment must also be humane and fair. Although these laws seem to specifically benefit those who have committed crimes, it is beneficial to all citizens to guarantee a just and reasonable criminal procedure.
9. -1791- Unenumerated rights
a. The Ninth Amendment protects rights that are not specified the in the Constitution. These rights can range from the right to privacy to a women’s right to abortion. Although, the Ninth Amendment goes unmentioned and unnoticed, it applies to our modern day controversies such as gay marriage or euthanasia. Our fundamental human rights are secured through the amendment. However, it does seem to pose as a “blank check” to Congress and judiciaries. But it also does have its limitations like the rest of the amendments in the Constitution.
10. -1791- Powers of the States and People.
a. The Tenth amendment outlines the relationship and powers of the state government, federal government, and the people. It ensures that the federal government does not exercise powers that are not granted to them. The 13 colonies were categorized by states and united into one country. However, each colony had an existing form of government and people in these political positions. The state did not want to relinquish all of its privileges and power so our found fathers included the Tenth amendment to make certain that the federal government did not impair the state’s individual governments.
11. -1795- Judicial limits.
a. States are protected from lawsuits in the Eleventh amendment. However, it does not extend to all types of legal procedures; the state is only protected if a resident from one state attempts to sue another state. The Constitution further extends it protection to the state by allowing it to have state sovereign immunity in this predicament. The Eleventh Amendment is a result of keeping states separate by limiting legal battles in state courts.
12. -1804- Revision of presidential election procedures
a. The 12th Amendment created a separate election ballot and process for the election of the vice president. Instead of the 2nd runner up in the presidential election becoming vice president, vice presidential candidates had to campaign separately. Prior to the ratification of this amendment, the president and vice president could have been from two different parties which would create difficulties and disagreements within the cabinet. It also established the Electoral College which plays an imperative part in the voting process. The college lessens the impact of voting fraud amongst cities. It also seemed like a concern of the founding fathers to ensure that only the educated were voting for executive cabinet.
13. -1865- Abolition of slavery.
a. The 13th amendment established the permanent and official abolition of slavery after the publication of the Emancipation of Proclamation. The ratification further united and divided the United States. Many people continued to fight for slavery while others embraced the abolition. The federal laws help break down racial barriers but discrimination does not disappear with the signing of a document. The 13th amendment was a big step in overcoming racial obstacles but it was one of many that needed to be done to have a fair society.
14. -1868- Citizenship rights.
a. The amendment granted new freed slaves their basic liberties with citizenship. Neither northern nor southern states could deny citizens to their right to life, liberty, or property. It gave the federal government the power to intervene in state affairs and enforce the new amendment. The Constitution acknowledged that there should be equality for races through the ratification of the 14th amendment. The amendment was greatly influenced by the ideas of the Enlightened thinkers, specifically the English philosopher, John Locke; he believed that life, liberty and the right to ownership should be guaranteed.
15. -1870- Suffrage no longer restricted by race.
a. The 15th amendment restricts state and any other form American government from preventing a citizen from voting based on race, but it did not include gender. It aimed to enfranchise former slaves yet a large majority of African Americans did not vote. Polls had literacy tests to elevate the qualifications to vote because many former slaves did not know how to read or write. Even after the publication of the 15th amendment many new freed men were intimidated into not exercising their right to vote. The amendment did make a difference politically on paper but it did not truly end suffrage for African Americans.
16. -1913- Allows federal income tax.
a. The amendment is a direct result of the Pollock vs. Farmer’s Loan case. It grants the federal government the ability to levy an income tax without allocating it to the individual states. The federal government uses the taxes for tasks are beneficial to the whole country while the states would spend the taxes on state specific problems. Tax protestors struggle to have the 16th amendment repealed however the United States would lose funding for necessary programs like military defense, general government jobs, and infrastructure programs.
17. -1913- Senators Elected by Popular Vote.
a. Before the 17th Amendment, States elected senators while the House of Representatives were elected by popular vote to maintain a balance. After the ratification of the amendment, both the house and senate were to be elected by popular vote. This took power away from the state legislators which resulted in a power shift from the state government to the federal government. However, the amendment did not stay true to our founding fathers’ vision and beliefs; they limited the power of the people because they were concerned that a large majority of the people were unsophisticated and illiterate.
18. -1919- Prohibition of alcohol.
a. The 18th amendment banned the sale, manufacture, or transportation of alcohol. Although it seemed beneficial to remove unsafe and intoxicating liquor, it caused more harm than good. Americans disagreed with the prohibition of alcohol thus the rise of organized crime. Mafias and gangs would form to organize and control the sale of alcohol. The upsurge in crime rates proved that the prohibition of alcohol was a failure and hence it led to the repeal of the 18th amendment.
19. -1920- Women’s suffrage.
a. The amendment prohibited any state from denying a citizen the right to vote because of their gender. This is the result of the women’s suffrage movement in the turn of the 20th century. It gave women the opportunity to be more active and vocal in politics. Men were concerned that there would be a gap between the voting trends of men and women. However, most women voted the same way as their husband did. By the 1960’s, the women’s voting trend began to diverge from that of men’s. By extending suffrage to women, the amendment made voting more equal in practice.
20. -1933- Presidential, Congressional Terms
a. The amendment states that in an event where the President is unable to lead then the Vice President has the responsibility of assuming the position. In the event where the Vice President is unavailable then the President has the right to chose a new candidate. Congress has the ability to submit a new president and vice president when the both are unable to lead. This amendment is necessary incase an executive cabinet position is left empty. The amendment also outlines the succession of the president and the starting and ending terms of other elected officials.
21. -1933- Repeal of 18th amendment (prohibition of alcohol)
a. Since the 18th amendment proved to be ineffectual, the 21st amendment was created to repeal the prohibition of alcohol. Its purpose was to eliminate the organized crime created to control and sale alcohol. The 18th amendment was instated because people thought it would help society become safer. Ironically, crime rates rapidly escalated and laws became looser as a result. Therefore, the 21st amendment was ratified to make alcohol legal once again.
22. -1951- Presidential term limits.
a. The 22nd amendment states that a president may stay in office for a maximum of eight years. In the reaction to Franklin Roosevelt’s violation of the unofficial two term law limit, the Constitution was changed to include presidential term limits. This amendment prevents a president from becoming a dictator. In the case that a president is corrupt, the 22nd amendment limits his time in the executive office.
23. -1961- Representation of Washington, D.C. in the Electoral College
a. The 23rd amendment allows the District of Columbia to participate in the election of the President and Vice President. As a result, the district is represented as a state in the Electoral College. The residents of District of Columbia did not enjoy the privilege of voting before the amendment’s ratification. However, their voting privileges are limited to the election of the executive officers because they have no representation in the House of Representatives or Congress.
24. -1964- Poll tax barred.
a. The Constitution restricts states from denying a citizen’s right to vote based on their inability to pay a poll tax. Southern states implemented poll taxes to prevent African Americans from voting since the majority of them lived in poverty and could not afford to pay. Voting is a right that should not be limited by a fee for all citizens should have this liberty without monetary restriction. Poll taxes were seen as a form of institutionalized racism because it indirectly targeted African Americans. Southern states rebelled against Reconstruction in the mid 1900’s by putting such acts into practice.
25. -1967- Presidential succession.
a. The 25th amendment outlines the procedures if the President or the Vice President’s position suddenly becomes vacant. In the case the President can no longer fulfill his duties, then the Vice President shall fill the chief executive position. When the Vice President becomes unable to serve then the President can nominate a new candidate. The President should be able to choose the new Vice President so the two leading officers can be united. If they were from different parties or had diverging interests then conflicts would disrupt functionality of the office.
26. -1971- Voting age nationally established as age 18.
a. The amendment establishes the legal voting age at 18. Before, most polls only allowed people of 21 years and older to vote. However, young soldiers who were enlisted in the Vietnam war were enraged that they could not participate in the election of their president. These men were too young to vote yet they were old enough to go off to fight. The 26th amendment permitted the younger generation to have a voice in politics. Although age is not an accurate measure of maturity or responsibility, 18 is the official age in which a citizen becomes an adult.
27. -1992- Limiting Congressional Pay Increases
a. The most recent amendment prohibits the increase or decrease for Senators and House’s salaries until after the election. It limits the power of Congress to set its own salary.