The Bill of Rights comprise the first 10 Amendments,
but not all of the Constitutional Amendments.
To review them, click here: The Bill of Rights
Constitutional Amendments: Number 11.
The Sovereignty of the States (1795)
No one, domestic or foreign, can sue a state in federal court. A state can be sued if it gives its consent to be sued, which is usually for negligence.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 12.
Electing President and V.P. (1804)
The Electoral College for use in Presidential elections. This is addressing the Election of the President and Vice President by means of the electoral college which even some of us lawyers don’t totally understand. It is a unique proceeding to the U.S. For the College, representatives from each state are elected and they give all to the candidate who wins the popular vote in each state. So the popular vote and the electoral vote can differ. An important part of this is that the President and Vice President must be voted for on each party’s ticket, insuring that the President and Vice President who are running together will remain together. There are a number of articles about this on the internet. This site of course has a lot of credibility: Wikipedia.org.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 13.
Freedom from Slavery (1865)
Slavery is abolished. No can be held as a slave except for punishment for a crime they have been duly convicted of. Congress has authority to amend this by appropriate legislation. This was the great amendment that came out of the Civil War, and was inaugurated by President Abraham Lincoln. As with everything, lawyers can fight over anything. The big problem in this amendment has been the interpretation of the meaning of ‘involuntary servitude.’ To me, even with a legal mind, this isn’t difficult: if you force someone serve, it’s a form of slavery. But as I said, lawyers fight over everything.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 14.
Citizenship Rights (1868)
This defines citizenship in the United States to include anyone born here, and especially Black people. The Civil Rights law of 1866 said this, but as a law it could be overturned, and people wanted to see this become an Amendment. Later on, this was extended to the rights of children of immigrants, and Native American Indians. The effect is that once a citizen, always a citizen. This is the key factor to this Amendment.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 15.
Voting Rights for Blacks (1870)
This followed on the heals of Amendments 13 and 14, pertaining to Blacks, but it was for every person too. Voting cannot be prohibited because of race. No one can be denied the right to vote based on race or color. Congress is given the power to amend this by appropriate legislation.
It should be noted that women were interested in this Amendment, and some movement existed to include them, but this was not accomplished until about a half century later.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 16.
Federal Income Tax Allowed (1913)
Income tax becomes lawful. Taxes on income from any source is hereby allowed. There was debate that this tax should never exceed 3-5%, but this was not passed.
In 1894, the Supreme Court overruled any tax like this, rightly calling it a direct tax, and therefore unconstitutional. But liberal, socialistic factions had their say starting about 1900, and voicing a ‘redistribution of wealth’ type of thinking. Income tax is now 7-10 times higher than originally considered. This is a big circumvention of the 4th amendment.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 17.
Popular Election of Senators (1913)
Senators are to be elected by popular vote. Americans were not allowed to vote for Senators originally. They were elected by the legislature of each state, and the Congressmen of the House of Representatives were elected by the people. This was changed by this Amendment. This allows the people of each state to elect two Senators, so that each state is equal in the Senate. The House of Representatives is elected by population in each state, so states have different representatives in this body dependent on their population size. There are pro and con voices for and against this amendment which you can read about in these articles if you are interested:
Constitutional Amendments: Number 18.
Liquor is declared to be illegal (1919)
Liquor is abolished (prohibition). This was partly done for moral reasons, and Christian revivals occurring. But it was also largely done to try to curb alcoholism and crime. It really did neither. People still continued to drink and crime was increased by bootlegging illegal alcohol. Most people simply were not willing to obey the new law, and even cited spiritual statements like Paul in the Bible, saying to take a little wine for your stomach. Drinking some form of alcohol, wine, etc., had been the way of the world for centuries. So, this amendment lasted for less than 15 years, and was repealed by Amendment 21 in 1933.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 19.
Women Obtain the Right to Vote (1920)
Women got the right to vote. This was called women’s suffrage. This nation was founded on the principle that ‘all men are created equal,’ and this literally meant men. Women were never thought to be equal with men, and neither were the Blacks, or the Native American Indians. All three classes of people were discriminated against. The Blacks were given equal rights (at least in theory), in an earlier amendment and laws. And Native Americans were gradually brought in to be considered equals. But women were barred from voting due to sex, and this was eliminated in this amendment.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 20.
Terms of office are clarified (1933)
Presidential and Congressional terms of office clarified. This sets the dates and times when the President’s and Vice President’s term is over, and also the Senators and Representatives. The Congress is said to have to meet once a year on January 3 (of course they always meet more than this). It also states that the Vice President will become President if the President cannot serve.
This is humorously referred to as the lame duck amendment because defeated officials stayed in office for a long period of time after their election defeat, and they were somewhat ‘lame’ because their power was diminished due to leaving office.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 21.
Repeal of Prohibition (1933)
This amendment repeals prohibition (amendment 18). It was largely repealed because people were still drinking illegal liquor, and the 18th amendment had not decreased crime or mob activity as people thought it might.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 22.
Only 2 terms allowed for the President (1951)
This limits the President to two terms in office. It was created because of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected to a 3rd and also a 4th term in office before he died in office. It was decided no President should serve more than two terms, so this amendment stated this.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 23.
Voting for President in Washington D.C. (1961)
This says the District of Columbia can vote for President. The District of Columbia is our nation’s capital, but it is not one of the 50 states. Until this amendment, people living in the District of Columbia had no legal means by which to vote for President unless they also had a residence in a state (which most of them do, but many do not). This amendment included them in Presidential elections.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 24.
No voting tax allowed (1964)
Some states were charging people money to vote, called a ‘poll (voting) tax.’ Other states were not charging people money to vote. Things were not uniform. “All men are created equal” was not being applied uniformly across the states. So this amendment corrected this, stating an poll tax (a tax for polling or voting) was not allowed.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 25.
Vice President & President (1967)
This is the ‘succession process’ in case of Presidential disability. If the President dies, the Vice President assumes his office. It was really not clear before this what would happen if something happened to the President. The Vice President taking over for the President has happened before, but it was never really and truly known what the procedure was for this. This amendment declares that the controlling party (Republican or Democrat) stays in office if something happens to the President. The other party cannot take over. The swearing in of Lyndon Johnson after John Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas in 1963 was before this amendment.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 26.
An 18 year old can now vote (1971)
Of course, they must be citizens of the United States, but they can not be prohibited from voting if they are at least 18 years of age.
Like others, this was a simple amendment. You had to be 21 to vote before this, but this — after a lot of debate and argument against it — said an 18 year old could vote. It actually only took 4 months to pass, which is a very short period of time: one of the shortest time spans for an amendment on record.
The reasoning against this amendment is sound to a degree, and still exists today. Young people for sure, and many older people too, are swayed by emotional appeal and a candidate’s charisma and charm. They don’t dig into the person and know why they are good or bad for the office. People against this amendment were just fearful that candidates would jump on the chance to capture young voters into their camp and charm them.
Constitutional Amendments: Number 27.
Limited Salary Increases (1992)
This limits Congressional pay increases. This is a fairly complicated amendment about pay increases for our elected officials, and can only take effect for the next term of office (a new election). This was a concern back at the time our nation was formed, and continued until this amendment. This was the last amendment passed, in 1992, not allowing a congressional salary from taking effect until after the next election of members of the House of Representatives.
The end of the Amendments
The last amendment was 25 years ago as of 2017