A Basic Understanding of Constitutional Amendments

(LibertySociety.com) – The Constitution of the United States is the blueprint for our government. It’s often referred to as a “living document” because of the ability to add amendments to it. Those additions are extremely important because they lay out the rights of the people.

When the Framers penned the Constitution, they included a “Bill of Rights.” It’s a list of 10 amendments that limit the federal government’s power over the people. Since the document was ratified on June 21, 1788, Congress has only added 17 more amendments to it.

What exactly do the amendments cover, you may be wondering?

Basic Rundown of All 27 Amendments

We’ve compiled a very general overview of the Constitution’s amendments below:

  • 1st Amendment: Everyone in the US has the right to speak freely and practice a religion of their choosing. Freedom of the press and the right to peacefully assemble are also included.
  • 2nd Amendment: The government cannot infringe on a citizen’s right to bear arms.
  • 3rd Amendment: Americans don’t have to provide a living space to soldiers during peacetime.
  • 4th Amendment: People within the country do not have to submit themselves to search and seizure without probable cause or a warrant.
  • 5th Amendment: This amendment guarantees the right to due process of the law; prohibits abuse by the government during legal proceedings; protects against double jeopardy; requires fair compensation to landowners whose land is taken for public use; and establishes grand jury proceedings.
  • 6th Amendment: Anyone being charged with a crime has the right to face their accuser, view the evidence against them, hire an attorney, bring witnesses forward in their defense and receive a speedy and fair jury trial.
  • 7th Amendment: Establishes the right of the people to have a jury present for a civil case in federal court and prohibits another court from overturning the jury’s established facts.
  • 8th Amendment: Outlaws cruel and unusual punishment as well as excessive fines and bail.
  • 9th Amendment: This is a safety net that reserves any rights which are not enumerated in the Constitution and amendments to the people, not the government.
  • 10th Amendment: The states and the people reserve the powers that were not specifically given to the federal government.
  • 11th Amendment: States cannot be sued by people or foreigners living outside of the states’ borders.
  • 12th Amendment: Sets up the parameters for electing the president and vice president.
  • 13th Amendment: Outlaws slavery except as a punishment for criminal offenses.
  • 14th Amendment: Outlines the details of the Due Process Clause; Equal Protection Clause; Citizenship Clause; and the process to deal with Confederate officials.
  • 15th Amendment: The right to vote won’t be denied to someone based on their color, race, or status as a former slave.
  • 16th Amendment: Allows the government to tax income.
  • 17th Amendment: Requires the popular vote to be used to elect senators.
  • 18th Amendment: Bans the manufacturing and sale of alcohol.
  • 19th Amendment: Grants women the right to vote.
  • 20th Amendment: The “lame duck amendment” establishes the dates congressional and presidential terms will begin.
  • 21st Amendment: Repeals the 18th Amendment.
  • 22nd Amendment: Limits presidents from being elected to more than two terms. If they took over someone else’s term and served for more than two years, they may only be elected as president one more time.
  • 23rd Amendment: Residents of Washington, DC may vote for electors who will participate in presidential elections.
  • 24th Amendment: Outlaws poll taxes or other taxes that prohibit a citizen from voting.
  • 25th Amendment: Outlines the rules for presidential succession.
  • 26th Amendment: Sets the voting age at 18-years-old.
  • 27th Amendment: Prohibits laws that change congressional salaries until the beginning of the next term.

If you are looking for a more detailed explanation of the amendments, be sure to read the US Constitution. Also, keep in mind, the Supreme Court sets precedents that further clarify almost all of the additions. If you are curious about specific rulings, you can find that information on the website for the high court.

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