Obrázky stránek

and proposed the amendments, and the State legislatures have ratified them, because it is the most convenient way. The Constitution itself was framed in a convention and ratified by conventions in three-fourths of the States. The consent of the President is not necessary for the proposal of amendments by Congress..

149.“ Equal Suffrage in the Senate.”—The Constitution may

be amended so as to allow but one Senator or three or four or any other number to each State without the consent of every State; but to deprive a particular State-Nevada, for instance-of one or both of its Senators it must give its consent. As Nevada is not likely to agree to such a step it cannot be reduced to a Territory or annexed to an adjoining State, but will continue its separate existence, with its Senators representing but a handful of people (42,000) compared with the population of New York State (7,268,000).

150. Amendments Proposed and Ratified.-Some 1,700 amendments have been proposed in Congress, but only nineteen received support enough to be submitted to the States for ratification. Of the nineteen, fifteen have been ratified. Among the amendments proposed but not further acted on, the most important ones were those assuring the constitutionality of the Louisiana Purchase, authorizing Congress to make internal improvements, dealing with slavery before the Civil War, establishing woman's suffrage, providing for election of United States Senators by a popular vote, and amending the Preamble so as to include a recognition of Almighty God. Strictly speaking the Constitution has been amended only four times. The first ten amendments went into force in 1791, the eleventh in 1798, the twelfth in 1804, and the

thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth in 1865, 1868, and 1870 respectively. The first ten, called “the Bill of Rights,” were really not a change of the Constitution, but a “postscript" to it. The last three, known as the “War Amendments," secured and made permanent the results of the Civil War. It is a great compliment to the framers of the Constitution that it has been changed so little in the course of more than a century.

Questions on the Article.—What kind of vote is required in Congress to propose an amendment? How many States must call for a convention to propose amendments? How many States must ratify either by legislatures or conventions? What parts of the Constitution cannot be amended?


CLAUSE 1.-All debts contracted, and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution as under the Confederation.

Cl. 2. This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

Cl. 3. The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several State legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

151. Revolutionary Debts. It is a principle of public law that a nation cannot avoid paying its debts by changing the form of its government. By asserting this

principie in the Constitution, with reference to the debts that the Continental Congress had incurred at home and abroad, much opposition to the adoption of the Constitution was avoided.

152. Supremacy of the Constitution. The Constitution and the laws and treaties made by virtue of its powers are the supreme law of the land. But it should be remembered that this supremacy extends only to the powers delegated to the United States (see p. 61), and that it is only within the domain of those powers that the United States authority is supreme. States within their powers are just as supreme as the United States is within its powers. For instance, Congress has power to regulate commerce among the States, but it has no power over commerce wholly within a State.

153. The Oath of Office.—The oath implies conscience on the part of him that takes it, but not religion, either formal or real. So when an officeholder takes the oath to support the Constitution, the obligation to do what he promises to do rests on his conscience. The Mormon Congressman was not debarred from membership in the House of Representatives because of his religion; such disqualification would have been contrary to the Constitution, and members voting against his admission on religious grounds would have violated their oath. He was kept out of Congress because of the evidence that he was a polygamist.

Questions on the Article.—What constitutes the supreme law of the land? What must a judge do with a State law that is contrary to the supreme law of the land? What officials must take the oath? and what do they pledge themselves to do thereby? What sort of test is forbidden? Why?



The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.

Done in convention, by the unanimous consent of the States

present, the seventeenth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, and of the independence of the United States of America

the twelfth. In witness whereof, we have hereunto subscribed our names.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, President, and Deputy from Virginia.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

154. The Establishment of the Constitution.—The Constitution was submitted to the Congress, under the Articles of Confederation, September 20, 1787. That

body, after subjecting the document to a heavy fire of criticism for eight days, sent it to the State legislatures, to be by them submitted to conventions for ratification (see p. 35). When it had been so ratified by the required number of States, June 21, 1788, the Congress passed a resolution that the new government should go into effect on the first Wednesday in March, 1789, which day happened to be the fourth of March. The Congress, under the Constitution, afterwards passed a law designating March 4th as the beginning of a presidential and congressional term. 155. The Signers.—

There were sixty-five delegates chosen to the convention. Ten did not attend, sixteen declined or failed to sign, and thirty-nine signed.

Questions on the Article.—Which State had most delegates in the Constitutional Convention of 1787? Why? Why should Delaware have had more than Massachusetts? How many States had to ratify it? When was the Constitution finished?




156. Its Origin and Nature.— The “Bill of Rights” has much resemblance to the English Bill of Rights, an act of Parliament passed in 1689, and assented to by William and Mary on taking the throne. Some of its principles are found in the Magna Charta and in the Petition of Right presented to Charles I. The English Bill of Rights was a concession made by the king to the people. As in a republic all rights belong to the people, the framers of the Constitution did not think it necessary to insert a bill of rights. But when the Constitution was before

« PředchozíPokračovat »