The Constitution: Article 7 & Conclusion

Article 7 is a bit of a misnomer, its more of a conclusion (hence the title of this post.  It merely states that a majority of 9 states out of the 13 then involved would be required to ratify it before it was made officially law.  9 is 2/3rds of the original 13 states, a standard that continues today with amendments needing to pass 2/3rds of the States.  That is currently 33 states, since we now have a total of 50.

Of course, given that it is the constitution, it was prefered that all states would ratify it (which they eventually did)  Otherwise some states may still have been under the governing of the Articles of Confederation, which would be very awkward when trying to make laws, or making governing decisions between states.  It also was a political move to make the states ratify it early to be able to be on the decision-making team when it came to alterations (Amendments) and putting together the details that the constitution left vague. Continue reading

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The Constitution: Article Six

Article Six addresses various other items that were of a concern with creating a new constitution and a new Federal government.

Clause 1:  The US will still honor its debts.

There was some concern that with a new constitution/government that the US wouldn’t honor debts or contracts entered into under the Articles of the Confederation (The First constitution that the United States had ratified).  The first clause addresses this concern by saying that the Constitution will uphold anything debts that occurred or engagements (such as treaties and contracts) shall be continued under the new constitution.

Basically it means that the US is under new management, but the old deals still apply.

Clause 2:  The US Constitution shall be the ultimate law of the land.

This directs that any law, judgement or other actions by the government must adhere to this document.  It also states that all states are subject to the Constitution and Federal law, effectively bringing them under the same umbrella.  One of the ongoing issues with the Articles of Confederation was the lack of power the federal government had to do anything.  The confusion as states formed their own money etc couldn’t be corrected by the federal with much power behind it.  This government however was stronger, and made sure to specify that this document was the supreme law.  This also effectively transitions the country from working under the Articles of Confederation to having a new constitution.

Clause 3:  All officers of the government shall uphold the oath.  None of them will be forced to prove their religious faith.

There are two elements to the third clause.  One is that every officer of the government is to swear an oath of allegiance to uphold the constitution when taking office.  The other element is that no officer has to prove his religious choices to get into office.

This particular element has come under recent speculation,  This clause basically assures that there is no government backed religion, that no person who works in the government will have to prove their religion in order to take office.

With fundamentalism of many religions being more visible, many people are being asked unofficially to prove that they belong to one religion or another. Personally I believe that this clause in the Constitution makes it unconstitutional to make someone prove that they are part of a religion (regardless of said religion) in order to do their job (i.e. take office), or seek services from the federal government.  Many have alternate points of view on the subject.

The Supreme Court expanded this clause to the states in 1961’s Torcaso v. Watkins. Now no governmental employee, federal, state or otherwise, is required to prove one’s religious conviction or religious orientation to take office.

I found Heritage Guide to the Constitution had an interesting background for this particular clause (I’ve included the link below in the further reading) which also goes into people’s concern about secular language (a argument still had today).

Further Reading:

Law.com – Article 6 – Kids

Us Constitution.net – The Constitution Explained

Heritage.Org – Religious Test

Justia.Com – Supreme  Court Case Torcaso v. Watkins (1961)

 

The Constitution: Article Five

Article Five is unique because it only has one section.  It also has only one job: To explain how we can alter the constitution.

To change the constitution to suit the evolving needs of its citizenship, Congress can pass Amendments.  Amendments must be passed by two-thirds majority of both houses, and then present it to the legislatures of the states.  It must be ratified by 3/4ths of the states before it can be accepted into law.

There are currently 27 Amendments that have been ratified as part of the constitution.  Several amendments have been proposed but not voted on, others have been voted on and not quite made the cut vote wise.  There are even a few amendments that missed ratification due to a time limit and lack of state ratifications.

Some examples of failed or still pending Amendments include:

  • The Equal Rights Amendment
    First introduced in 1923 by Alice Paul, this amendment keeps poping up as society seems reluctant to catch up with equal rights in reality rather then theory.  It got as far as being ratfied by 35 states, falling short by 3 by the deadline of the 1972 edition.  It has still come up for a vote in Congress in recent years
  • The “First” Amendment.
    When the Bill of rights was proposed, there were actually 12 amendments, not 10. 11 of those Amendments have been ratitifed as Amendments 1-10, and 27 (which took the longest of any amendment to be ratified). It dealt with the size of congress, and basically deals in thousands when we have millions of citizens now so it doesn’t really fit the current needs of the population.
  • The Nobility Amendment
    This is still on the books to be ratified, but doesn’t really come up often.  It was a restriction on American’s ability to hold international nobility titles.  Basically it came down to Americans could not receive any gifts, income, title from a foreign government without the permission of Congress. Otherwise they must surrender their citizenship to the US
  • The Corwin Amendment
    While James Buchanan was president, an amendment came up that actually protects slavery, and would have made it unconstitutional to do away with slavery.  Its still technically out there to be ratified despite the 13th Amendment which makes it moot and unconstitutional.  Its one of two Amendments that the President actually signed (again, Presidents really have no input in Amendments offically).  The other is the 13th, which was signed by Buchanan’s successor Abraham Lincoln.
  • Child Labor Amendment
    This Amendment would have regulated child labor and made it a federal issue, removing the power from the States.  It has been ratified by 28 states.
  • District of Columbia Amendment
    This amendment would have granted DC representation in Congress.  It wasn’t ratified before the 7 year limit posed on it was reached.
  • 1876 – Anti-Congress Amendment
    As you can well imagine, this one never passed Congress.  The Amendment would have abolished the Senate.

Most Amendment proposals don’t make it out of their respective house.  The last amendment to be ratified was the 27th, which was one of the original 12 amendments made in  1789. It was ratified in 1992, 203 years later.

Further Reading

The Amendment Series

Constitution Center – Top Ten Amendments that haven’t made it (Yet)

US Consitiution.net – Failed Amendments

Lexis Nexis – Failed Amendments

 

The Constitution: Article Four

Now that we have developed the Federal government’s three branches (Legislative, Executive and Judicial) its now time to figure out the states relation to each other.  Section Four deals with States rights and how they fit in the hierarchy of government.

Section One:

Continue reading

The Constitution: Article Three

So in review, Article 1 deals with congress, Article 2 with the President/Executive Branch and now we deal with the third branch of the American Government: The Judicial Branch.  This is probably one of the shortest of the articles, but there are several amendments that deal with the Judicial branch.

Continue reading

The Constitution: Article Two (Part Two)

Article 2: Part 1

Section Two

Section 2 relates to the President’s duties as far as administrative function.  He is given the right to fill vacancies in the executive department (providing that they are confirmed by Congress), and to take into consideration the opinions of those people. He is also allowed to fill vacancies in Ambassadorial positions.  This part of the job is well shown on Media these days as Congress goes through the process of confirming nominations for the cabinet positions.   It is rare that nominations are not confirmed.  In some cases Nominations are pulled before they take a vote if it proves problematic.  However, there have been a few over the years (Senate.gov).

For most confirmations a simple majority vote is taken, from precedent from the first cabinet confirmations.  In current history, Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the Senate President –  Vice President Pence – breaking a tie. This was not a usual occurrence, and all sources I find at the moment point to it not having happened before.

He is also the head of the military services, and can call state militias into the national service. When the US was first created, the national military was very small, and depended on state militias to fill out the ranks. Over the centuries as the National military grew, and due to experiences in the Civil War and Spanish-American war, this was altered.  Each state now has a National Guard, whose primary use is for State needs, but can be called up for Federal service.

For example, President Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard to “prevent anarchy” and to enforce the law passed by Congress requiring schools to integrate races.  The story of Little Rock 9 is often told as a major point in race relations in the US, as is Eisenhower’s decision to use the National Guard to overrule the school/Governor defiance of the law.

Some states still have their own Defense Force outside the National Guard. Several states had them at one point but are currently inactive either due to States dismissing them due to liability issues or other reasons.  Pennsylvania had a reserve militia, for example, but only during WWII and Korea.  Then again Pennsylvania’s history with state militias is an interesting story for another time.

Section 3

This section essentially lays out the State of the Union address.  The constitution requires that the President occasionally present before Congress his plans for the nation and the status of the nation.  When originally used, it was not required that it happened every year but it has become customary now that it happens every year.

And because I love using segments of West Wing:

This section also makes him the chief diplomat, in that he is expected to meet with Ambassadors and other dignitaries of the world.  He is also to make sure that laws are faithfully adhered to.  Which really goes back to the oath of office.

Section 4:

This section adds that the President is subject to impeachment.

Further Reading:

Civil War Army Organization (Civil War.org)

State Defense Force (Wikipedia)

President Sends Troops To Arkansas  (New York Times; September 25, 1957)

The National Constitution Center: Article Two

The National Constitution Center: Five Presidential Cabinet Rejections

The Constitution: Article Two (Part One)

So as Article One created the Legislative Branch, Article Two creates the executive branch.  Notably this branch contains the President and Vice President, but it also contains the cabinet and their departments as well as a few other smaller government offices.

Section One

This section sets up the Presidency.  Who it is, how long he/she is in there, and how they are elected. Continue reading