Constitution Week: The amendments
Once the Constitution was completed, some states insisted that having people’s rights stated clearly must be added as amendments to the Constitution. Therefore, the Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments, which were ratified simultaneously by 1791 — was added to the document.
The Bill of Rights:
First Amendment: Protects the people’s right to practice religion, to speak freely, to assemble (meet), to address the government and of the press to publish.
Second Amendment: Protects the right to bear arms.
Third Amendment: Guarantees that homeowners cannot be forced to give room and board to soldiers.
Fourth Amendment: Protects the people against unreasonable searches or seizures by the government, without a valid warrant based on probable cause (good reason).
Fifth Amendment: Protects people from being held for committing a crime unless they are properly indicted; states that they may not be tried twice for the same crime and cannot be forced to testify against themselves. Also contains due process guarantees.
Sixth Amendment: Guarantees a speedy trial, an impartial jury and that the accused can confront witnesses against them and must be allowed to have a lawyer.
Seventh Amendment: Guarantees a jury trial in federal civil court cases.
Eighth Amendment: Guarantees that punishments will be fair, and not cruel, and that extraordinarily large fines will not be set.
Ninth Amendment: States that other rights aside from those listed in the Constitution may exist, and just because they are not listed doesn’t mean they can be violated.
10th Amendment: Says that any power not granted to the federal government belongs to the states.
The Constitution has 27 amendments. The following 17 were ratified separately over the next two centuries:
11th Amendment (1795): Establishes principle of sovereign immunity, by which states are protected against actions brought by citizens in federal courts.
12th Amendment (1804): Redefines how the president and vice president are chosen by the Electoral College.
13th Amendment (1865): Abolished slavery in the entire United States.
14th Amendment (1868):Designed to grant citizenship to and protect the civil liberties of recently freed slaves; establishes “due process” and “equal protection” clauses.
15th Amendment (1870): Ensures a person’s race cannot be used as criteria for voting.
16th Amendment (1913): Authorizes the United States to collect income taxes.
17th Amendment (1913): Shifts the choosing of Senators from the state legislatures to the people of the states.
18th Amendment (1919): Abolishes the sale or manufacture of alcohol in United States.
19th Amendment (1920): Ensures a person’s sex cannot be used as a criteria for voting.
20th Amendment (1933): Sets new start dates for the terms of Congress and the president
21st Amendment (1933): Repeals the 18th amendment.
22nd Amendment (1951): Limits the number of times a president could be elected—two four-year terms.
23rd Amendment (1961): Grants Washington, D.C., the right to three electors in presidential elections.
24th Amendment (1964): Ensures that no tax can be charged to vote for any federal office.
25th Amendment (1967): Establishes rules for a president who becomes unable to perform his duties while in office.
26th Amendment (1971): Ensures that any person 18 or over may vote.
27th Amendment (1992): Any law that increases the pay of legislators may not take effect until after an election.
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Submitted by the Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter of the DAR.
The chapter encourages everyone to take time during Constitution Week to reflect on our heritage of freedom.