The Fourth of July
Bells cried out, cutting through the air of a still, humid night, crawling through the streets of Philadelphia. The full moon pierced through a small cloud, beaming its rays onto a solitary clock tower that stood in the middle of a maze of cobble stone streets. A white horse pounded its hooves onto the bricks below it as it passed across the road.
Light seeped through the open windows of a tall brick building, through the open windows of Independence Hall. The open paned windows served as peep holes into a congregation of men who plotted to alter the course of the world.
The opened windows lead to a room that was filled with the odorous scent of powdered wigs that clung to sweaty necks. Candle wax slowly dripped onto coarse, hand-made, dark oak tables. Dirt covered, black shoes, white-stocking legs, and bland cotton trousers led up to pondering, moist faces. A young, fiery red haired man stood in the corner of the room near the opened windows, glancing worriedly over his shoulder at a large sheet of parchment that rippled slightly due to the breeze that gusted through the room. An elderly man with a kind face, sparse strands of graying hair falling over coy eyes, sat in the middle of a group of stern-faced men.
The sudden eruption of sound as the bells marked the early hour of the morning startled the men out of their deep meditation. A middle aged Bostonian stopped his pacing abruptly and glanced out over the room of men and then turned his gaze over to a quivering quill pen that perched in a silver inkstand.
One phrase of words echoed through the deep recesses of all their minds as the final bong of the clock’s bell resonated in the room around them, the words “…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
The Bostonian, a man by the name of John Adams, strutted over to his chair and pressed his hands on the wooden back of the chair. “Well?” Adams started as he turned his eyes over to a man beside him who was thumbing the table aimlessly. His tone of voice revealed his worn patience after a long day of trying to persuade a group of southern men to pen their autographs onto a statement of independence.
Adams’s words caused a youthful man to spring out of his chair and walked up to the large desk in the front of the room that hosted as the podium for the large piece or parchment. John Hancock arrived at the desk and looked down at the black cursive writing that covered the document. On the top of the sheet, in large bold writing, the words “Declaration of Independence” were sprawled out. Hancock brusquely lifted the quill out of the stand, dipped the tip roughly into the bottle of black ink several times, and then swiftly, and not to mention largely, autographed his name under the statement. He let his hand drop the feather back into its stand and then pivoted on his shined heel.
He walked back down the aisle, ignoring the glances that followed him, and then lowered down into his chair. The red haired man, a young patriot by the name of Thomas Jefferson, the man who penned the document himself, looked over at Hancock with a new look of confidence in his eyes. As if Hancock had stuck the match that lighted a long line of candle sticks, one by one, the men in the room stood and walked forward to sign their name on the declaration that would change the world.
As the men lined up, Adams looked over to Jefferson and nodded. Jefferson walked forward and joined the men as they one by one signed their name. Adams looked out the window, attempting to fathom the magnanimous result this document would have on the rest of the world.
Adams knew, as he penned his name under a long list of the names that belonged to a brave group of patriots, that this document gave breath into a new nation. A new nation, the United States of America, which would promise freedom to all, which would secure the rights of the individual. A new nation, the United States of America, which would produce a Constitution that would harness the powers of government. A new nation, the United States of America, which would have a system of government like none other before: of the people, by the people, for the people. A new nation, the United States of America, that would be born of the courageous acts of one group of men, one group of Patriots, who were led by Divine Providence, who wanted to be free from Tyrannical rule and preserve freedom for all ages.
It is easy to go about Independence Day, preparing for fun holiday events, hanging out with friends and family, watching spectacular fireworks shows, and not think twice about what this holiday stands for. This holiday stands for much more than the signing of a document that declared our independence. This holiday stands for much more than separating from Britain and tyrannical rule.
In the year 1776, on the fourth day of July, in a stuffy Independence Hall in the heat of Philadelphia, a group of men gathered because they knew something wasn’t right. They knew that the country they inhabited was intended to be the land of the free. They wanted to rid the tyrannical rule from over their heads and be able to breath freely the air of independence. They no longer could sit around, watching British redcoats march around their streets, terrorizing the people, and do nothing.
Each brave man who gathered in Independence Hall to compose a document, a declaration, of freedom, had a fire burning inside of them to create a country that would secure and promise freedom to all people. These patriots wanted their children to live in a free country, one without a king, tyrant, or dictator, looming over their heads.
On Independence Day, we must remember the acts of our founders, their brave acts that few men (or women) can even equal. We must remember the Divine Providential hand that guided a young America on a path of freedom. We must remember how blessed we are to live in a country where we can speak our minds without the fear of being imprisoned. We must remember how blessed we are to live in a country where We The People have power over our government through our vote.
So, as you are watching fireworks light up America’s sky tonight, remember the rockets, remember the men, that fought for your freedom, remember the men that signed a Declaration of Independence that changed the course of the whole world.
June 24, 2011 – Amendment XXVII – Interpretation of Professor Charles K. Rowley’s Essay
No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Amendment XXVII, the last amendment to the United States Constitution, was actually one of the first Amendments ever to be proposed to the states by the federal Congress. Amendment twenty-seven was introduced to the states originally as the second amendment in the Bill of Rights, (remember there were originally twelve amendments in the Bill of Rights when it was submitted to the states in 1789?) However, this amendment was not ratified by the states and discarded for over two hundred years until the issue arose again in 1969.
Fun Fact #1
This amendment by far has the longest ratification process of all the ratified amendments to the Constitution. The 1st Congress of the United States first proposed the amendment in 1789 on the twenty-fifth day of September. (It is interesting to note that when first proposed in 1789, this amendment received a few, but not a sufficient number of state ratification. Only six states, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont, & Virginia, ratified the amendment) It was not until 1992, on the seventh day of May, a few months shy of 203 years later, that the amendment managing the pay raises of Senators’ and Representatives’ salaries, received the required thirty-nine out of the fifty- states. It is also of interest to note that Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York have yet to ratify the amendment!
Fun Fact #2
The amount of money of our Congressional and Senatorial representative receive as result of being members of our Congress in Washington, according to Article 1, Section 6 of the United States Constitution, is left up to Congress itself. This, in a way, is like a boss telling his employees that they can choose whatever salary they desire. However, in real life, Congress cannot truly unlimitedly raise their salaries. Our Founding Father knew that Congress, if they raised their pay in too large a sum, would be checked by the people of America who would check the Legislative branch of government with their vote.
Fun Fact #3
In the time period between when this amendment was originally proposed and a few years before its ratification, Congress raised their pay twenty-two times! Members of the Congress were originally paid per diem, or per day. The first annual salary received by Congressional Members was in 1815: the pay being a small sum of $1,500. More than one hundred and fifty years later, in 1968, Congressional salaries rose to the rate of $30,000. In 2009, Congressional pay rates stood at $174,000.
Fun Fact #4
What exactly does Amendment XXVII do on the issue of Congressional paychecks? Amendment twenty-seven prohibits an increase in Congressional pay from going into effect during the terms of our U.S. Congressmen and Congresswomen. For example, if Congress does pass legislation in which it orders higher salaries, they date in which the new salary alterations would go into effect must be after the following election of Congressmen/women. What dos this do? This prohibits Representatives from passing legislation in which they raise the salaries of Congress members and directly benefitting from the legislation passed.
Fun Fact #4
You may be wondering how in the world this amendment essentially rose from the dead and became a hot topic two hundred years after it had already been debated. It was actually due to the actions of a young citizen by the name of Gregory Watson, who was attending the University of Texas at the time. It all began when he wrote a term paper in which he argued for the ratification of this amendment. He soon after “embarked on a one-man campaign for the amendment’s ratification” by writing letters to several state legislatures of different states across the nation. Gregory Watson is proof of how one man can make a difference, for shortly thereafter, approximately a year after Watson’s college term paper, Maine and then Colorado ratified the amendment. Then, as if this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, more and more states, ranging from two to seven per year, ratified the amendment.
Fun Fact #5
As you might imagine, members of Congress who had just been striped of their rights to raise their salaries at any given time, were a little upset. Actually, “a little” is probably an understatement. Some legislators were upset enough as to challenge the validity of the amendment, taking it as far as to the Supreme Court! The Supreme Court ruled, though, in Coleman v. Miller in 1936, when asked if the amendment was still valid after all these years had passed, that if an amendment did not have a “due date”, so to speak, the amendment could be passed at any time.
The question, “Who guard the guardian?” is very interesting in the context of this amendment. Amendment twenty-seven of the United States Constitution places yet another check on the Legislative Branch, which serves as the check to the Executive branch of our government.
Even though amendment twenty-seven was passed by the states two hundred years after its proposal, it is not any less important than the other amendments that precede it. For, if amendment twenty-seven was not in place, who knows to what extent Congress members would be sucking up tax payer money for their own personal benefit!
June 23, 2011 – Amendment XXVI – Interpretation of Mr. Andrew Langer’s Essay
1: The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.
2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment XXVI, the second to last amendment to the United States Constitution, lowers the required age to receive voting eligibility from age 21 to age 18. There were two main reasons as to why the voting age requirement was lowered: first, because in the late 1900s, young citizens, most who were already working and feeding families, were anxious to voice their opinions in the polling booths; second, because of the army drafts that were occurring during the war, young adults felt that if they could be drafted into the army, they should be able to vote; hence the statement, “If I’m old enough to be drafted to fight for my country, I ought to be able to vote those policies facing my country.”
Fun Fact #1
Amendment XXVI was approved by the Senate on the tenth day of March in 1971, and then passed by the House of Representatives thirteen days later. Then the amendment was proposed to the several states of the United States of America, reaching the required thirty-nine of the fifty states on July 1, 1971, thus completing the amendment process for amendment twenty-six.
Fun Fact #2
President Eisenhower was the first president to push for a lowering of the voting age requirement, however, when Congress proceeded to attempt to require all states to lower the age, the Supreme Court ruled this action unconstitutional. The Court ruled that Congress would have to propose a constitutional amendment issuing the decrease in the age requirement, resulting in it being passed by the states, in order to nationally lower the age. Why? Our founding fathers had initially left the issue of voting requirements and eligibilities in the states hands, not in the federal government’s hands. Obeying the Supreme Court’s commands, Congress lower the voting age requirement when Richard Nixon was in occupancy of the White House in the 1970s
Fun Fact #3
In the election that succeeded the ratification of Amendment XXVI – the election of 1972 – the new young citizens eagerly flooded the voting booths, resulting in the 18 to 21 age range reaching its highest voting rates during that election cycle. From thence forth, voter turn out in the 18 to 21 age range has decreased and is now tremendously low.
It is of vital importance that young American citizens understand the importance of their voting rights. Every citizen’s vote counts, and their right to express their opinion through the voting booths should not be taken for granted. The fact that, due to the brilliant framework of the Constitution, Americans are able to elect their leaders should be a prevalent thought in the minds of all Americans, especially on Election Day!
June 22, 2011 – Amendment XXV – Interpretation of Mr. William C. Duncan’s Essay
1: In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
2: Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
3: Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
4: Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
The issue of what happens if the President of the United States is no longer able to live up to the duties asked of him as Commander in Chief has been a confusing puzzle for years. However, with the ratification of the twenty-fifth amendment to the Constitution, the question of when the Vice President is allowed to assume the Presidency, was answered. Amendment XXV answers the following four questions: what happens if a death occurs in the Presidency; what happens if the slot of the Vice Presidency is vacated; what happens if the citizen filling the slot of Commander in Chief knowingly is unable to fulfill the duties asked of him (or her); and what happens if the President, who is being labeled as incompetent, refuses to surrender his/her power.
Fun Fact #1
Before we learn the details about the ratification about this amendment, it is interesting to note that this amendment was ratified by the Congress in somewhat of a backwards form. This amendment was first proposed to the Senate in Senate Joint Resolution No. 1. The Senate later approved it first (usually it is the House) on the nineteenth day of February in 1965. Then this amendment moved into the House where the People’s House passed the legislation, in amended form, in 1965, on the 13th day of April. The several states then proceeded on to ratify the amendment, reaching the required thirty-nine of fifty states on the tenth day of February in 1967, essentially a year after the amendment was first proposed in the Senate.
Fun Fact #1
Now, from previous chapters, you may remember that there always was some uncertainty about when the Vice President is supposed to assume the slot of the Presidency and whether or not the Vice President is supposed to remain as President. With the passing of the twenty-fifth amendment, regardless of our founding fathers true intent, the issue of the Vice presidents role was set into stone. The first thing that Amendment XXV clarifies is what happens if the President of the United States passes away during his/her term in office. According to Amendment 25, it is the duty of the Vice President to assume the role of Commander in Chief if the original President passes. You may remember that President John Tyler assumed the Presidency in this way. (President William Henry Harrison died shortly after his inaugural address, and John Tyler, his Vice President, assumed the Presidency and claimed that he had the right to remain as president. Tyler got his way and served as the precedent for future Vice Presidents and for amendment twenty-five.)
Fun Fact #2
The second issue that Amendment XXV clarifies is that of what is supposed to occur if the slot of the Vice President is vacant. This could occur in multiple ways: the Vice President passes away, the Vice President resigns, or the Vice President has to assumed the Presidency. In the course of American history, seven Vice Presidents have passed away, two Vice Presidents have resigned, and eight have had to assume the Presidency. In any case, Amendment 25 states that the President is to appoint another Vice President and the appointee can assume his position once and only if the Congress confirms the appointment.
Fun Fact #3
The third issue that Amendment XXV addresses is that of what is supposed to occur if the President of the United States knowingly is unable to fulfill the duties asked of him/her. Lets take for example, if the President of the United States knows that on, say, April 17th, he/she will be having surgery and will have to be in recovery for a week or so, the President can issue a statement to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House stating the previous information and that the Vice President will take his place for the days he/she will be unable to serve as President.
Fun Fact #4
The fourth issue that is clarified by the passing of this amendment is what is supposed to occur if the President is unable to serve as Commander in Chief, yet will not transfer his/her powers to the Vice President. It is not necessarily an easy process. First, what must happen, is that the Vice President, and a large portion of the President’s principle officers – or whatever Congress sees fit at the time – must issue a statement to Congress stating the inadequateness of the President. However, the President is then allowed to object, and issue a statement clarifying that he/she is totally capable of serving as President. Then, if the Vice President and the other principle officers rebuttal once again by issues a statement saying, “No really, this guy is incapable of serving as President”, an already confused Congress will decide the matter. Two-thirds of the Congress must agree in favor of the Vice President in order for the President to be removed from power. Yet, if Congress cannot obtain that two-thirds majority, the President will continue serving as usual.
It is interesting to note that this issue has arisen many times in the course of the history of the presidency: President Garfield was in a coma for eighty days before he finally passed due to assassination; Woodrow Wilson was sickened by a debilitating stroke approximately a year and a half before his term was completed; and President Eisenhower suffered from a heart attack and a stroke while serving the United States as President.
Amendment XXV, finally, after many years of uncertainty, finalizes the Vice Presidents role and some of the “what if’s” of the Presidency. Can you believe it? We are so close to completing our study of the Constitution, nearing the end of the line of Amendments. Twenty-five down, two more to go.
June 21, 2011 – Amendment XXIV – Interpretation of Professor Joerg Knipprath’s Essay
1: The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
2: The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The poll tax was one of the infamous required tests a citizen had to take before he/she was able to place his/her vote. A citizen, under the poll tax, could only vote if he/she paid the fee that was collected from them before they cast their ballot, and if the voter demonstrated that he/she had paid the poll tax in previous elections. If the citizen had not paid the fee in past elections, they would have to pay the total sum of all their unpaid poll taxes before they could proceed to vote. The poll tax was a revenue source for state and federal governments; the poll tax was a tax directly on the person, instead of a tax on their land, and so forth. A poll tax was sometimes a large fee, or sometimes – as it was in Virginia just before the Supreme Court ruled that the tax was unconstitutional – as little as $1.50 per person (or $10.00 in today’s money).
Fun Fact #1
Amendment XXIV to the United States Constitution was passed by the United States Senate on the twenty-seventh day of March in the year 1962. The amendment was then proposed to the House who passed the legislation exactly five months later of the same year. The amendment received the required ratifications, thirty-eight of the fifty state legislatures, on January 23, 1964. It is interesting to note that the State Legislature of North Carolina did not ratify this amendment until May 3 of 1989, twenty-five years after the ratification of the amendment to the Constitution.
Fun Fact #2
The issue of the poll tax was a hot topic throughout the early-mid and late 1900s due to two factors:
- Some people thought that, under the 15th amendment (prohibiting one from denying another their right to vote due to racial discrimination), the poll tax was unconstitutional. You may be puzzled as to how a tax turns into a racial issue. Well statistics show that the tax effectively hit the lower class, and, most especially, Southern African Americans, whose voting rate dropped to less than 5% during the early 1900s. In short, the first major factor that took part in pushing for the repeal of the poll tax was that, with poll taxes in tact, African America voting rates dropped considerably.
- The second major issue is that the poll tax does not prove anything about the citizen’s eligibility to vote in an election, besides seeing if the citizen carried a bulk of cash in their pocket. Our Founding Fathers wanted to ensure that America was not based on a class system form of government, and most definitely would have frowned upon a poll tax. Other requirements that existed in the day, such as the literacy test, could be more excusable, for “having a literate electorate was a significant community interest…[and] [l]iteracy provided a foundation to acquire the knowledge needed for a wise and effective participation” of the voting populace.
Fun Fact #3
The push for the abolition of the poll tax began in the 1930s with President FDR, who sided with the Republican Party (not his base party, the Democrats), in their movement to rid the whole nation of the poll tax. The House of Representatives composed legislation that abolished the poll tax, but it did not get passed the Senate, due to a Southern led Senate filibuster that blocked the amendment. In 1944, the House tried once more to abolish the poll tax, however, the House ran into a rather large problem. In Article 1, the Constitution places vote qualification in the hands of the several states, and with the 15th and 19th amendment already under their belt, some people, even opponents of the tax, thought that the states power over vote qualification was being quickly usurped and ordered that any legislation limiting the state’s power be a constitutional amendment.
Fun Fact #4
The constitutional amendment was a little late coming, for by the 1960s, all but five states had already abandoned the poll tax. So be it, the twenty-fourth amendment finally passed through the Senate, avoiding another filibuster, then through the House, and then ratified by the states. It is very interesting to note that though the 24th Amendment prohibits the use of the poll tax, it only does so on a federal level. The twenty-fourth amendment does not prohibit the poll tax in state elections; this was left in the state’s hands. However, the Supreme Court changed this in the 1966 Supreme Court Case, Harper v. Virginia Board of Directors, prohibited Virginia from having poll taxes on their statewide elections.
Fun Fact #5
It is interesting to look at voting rights in the light of our “fundamental rights” that the founders viewed as “pre-political”; consisting of speech, religion, self-defense, etc. However, voting is not considered a “fundamental right” due to the fact that the only reason that voting is a right is because of political reasons, and is only relevant in republican or democratic forms of government.
Amendment XXIV once again guarantees the voting rights of America’s citizens. Now, alongside not being able to prohibit one from voting on account of gender or race, one cannot be prohibited from voting due to the lack of the ability to pay a poll tax.
June 20, 2011 – Amendment XXIII – Interpretation of Mr. Horace Cooper’s Essay
1: The District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct: A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a state, but in no event more than the least populous state; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the states, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a state; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.
2: The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment XXIII grants residents of Washington D.C. the authority to vote in Presidential elections and send electors to the Electoral College. Our founding fathers intended that the District of Columbia would serve as the capitol of the United States and as the home of the Congress and the President. Originally, the United States Congress was to reside over the aspects of the districts – as its sole body of government – and not the residents themselves. The residents of D.C. originally did not enjoy privileges such as sending members to Congress, voting for President, electing City Councils, etc. With the passing of the 23rd amendment, however, residents of our nation’s capitol were granted one of the privileges of a United States citizen.
Fun Fact #1
Congress proposed amendment 23 to the states in 1960, on the seventeenth day of June. The ratification process was complete when the required number of states (38 of the 50) ratified the amendment on March 29, 1961.
Fun Fact #2
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 allows Congress to reside over the District and “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever”. However, the residents of the capitol of the U.S. were not, and are still not, allowed to vote in Congressional and Senatorial elections. Neither does the small district have a voting representative in Congress! (It was not until 1970 that D.C. received its one and only non-voting representative.) By the ratification of amendment XXIII, the residents of the District of Columbia are now allowed to vote in presidential elections and are now allowed to be represented in the Electoral College. Yet, D.C. is restricted to the number of electors of that of the least populous state, which is Wyoming, who had just three electors in 2010.
Fun Fact #3
In the House Report, that went alongside the ratification of the amendment, noted that this amendment does not make the District of Columbia a state, and does not grant the district any privileges of a state, except the right to be represented in the Electoral College.
Fun Fact #4
Alongside their voting rights in the Presidential election, D.C. residents received a Mayor and City Council by the passage of the Home Rule Act in 1973 (an original push for Mayor and City Council was made as early as the 1820s!). D.C. residents also have the right to elect a School Board.
The Constitution, in its initial form, did not allow the residents of Washington D.C. any political rights that citizens of the several states enjoy (other that the unalienable rights like free speech, etc). Though with the passing of the twenty-third amendment and other acts of Congress, DC residents now enjoy some of the rights they would be entitled to enjoy if they lived in any other location of the United States.
June 17, 2011 – Amendment XXII – Interpretation of Mr. Marc S. Lampkin’s Essay
1: No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President, when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
2: This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.
For years, Presidents either followed President George Washington’s example by not seeking a third term, or their career as President was terminated by the voters at the end of their first or second term in office. For 150 years, two terms were the maximum number of terms a President every reached or strove to reach. It was not until Franklin Delano Roosevelt that a President occupied the White House for more than eight years.
Fun Fact #1
Amendment XXII was passed by the Congress in 1947 on the twenty-first day of March. One thousand, four hundred and thirty-nine days later, the amendment was ratified by the states, on February 27, 1951, adding the Presidential term limitation amendment as twenty-second in the line of amendments.
Fun Fact #2
Amendment XXII prohibits any president from seeking more than two terms in office (or eight years). However, if a situation occurs where the President succeeds into the office of the Presidency (take the situation of FDR’s Vice-president Harry Truman when he assumed the role of the presidency when FDR passed away), his succeeding term being greater than two years, then he (or she) can only seek one more term as President.
Fun Fact #3
Amendment twenty-two is the first mention of term limiting on the President of the United States; you will not find this issue mentioned anywhere else in the Constitution. It may appear at first as if the Founding Fathers outright ignored this issue, or plainly did not think of it. However, this is not the case. The issue of term limitation on the President of the United States was mentioned multiple times in the Constitutional Convention. In fact, the Constitutional Convention rejected three times the idea of limiting the number of terms in which the President can occupy the White House. Our founding fathers believed that if a leader was popular enough to be elected for multiple terms, then allow the voters to elect him as many times as they choose. Our founding fathers carefully set up the framework of our country so that, if a President is elected multiple times resulting in a long reign, frequent elections would keep the President in check.
Fun Fact #3
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first and only president to ever occupy the White House for more than eight years. In fact, FDR was elected five times! However, FDR died approximately one hundred days into his fifth term in office. During his thirty-two years in office, under FDR’s supervision the federal government expanded more than it ever had in any other time period in history. Coming out of the Great Depression, FDR began multiple public work programs and created the federal minimum wage. This, among other things, greatly englarged our federal government. FDR was elected largely due to the fact that he was President during the Great Depression, and Democrats, when asked to elect their party nominee for president, were nervous to elect any other person as their nominee for they greatly feared that if another leader assumed the title of Commander in Chief, it would cause a roll back into the Depression. Thus, Democrats stuck with FDR.
It is interesting to learn how most American Presidential leaders followed President George Washington’s heroic, humble, and courteous example of not seeking a third term. It is also interesting to note that the framers of the Constitution were opposed to term limitations. However, without such limitations on the Presidency, our federal government grew expansively when one human being occupied the White House for an extensive amount of time.
June 16, 2011 – Amendment XXI – Interpretation of Mr. Andrew Langer’s Essay
1: The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
2: The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
3: This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
Amendment twenty-one to the United States Constitution repealed the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution that prohibited the consumption and sale of alcohol. Amendment XXI is the only amendment to date that repeals another previous amendment to the Constitution.
Fun Fact #1
Congress proposed this amendment to the states in 1933 on the twentieth day of January. The several states subsequently ratified the amendment that repealed the prohibition of alcohol on the fifth day of December of the same year. South Carolina was the sole state that rejected the amendment.
Fun Fact #2
Sixteen years after the ratification of the eighteenth amendment, it was obvious that the attempts to outlaw alcoholic beverages were failing. Instead of prohibiting alcohol, it sparked a string of smugglers who would sneak the drink across state lines. However, since the nation had the great idea of making prohibition a national issue by way of a Constitutional amendment, rather than keeping it as a statewide issue, it was not easy to fix the temperance problem. The only way to repeal prohibition was by passing another amendment that declared the lift of the ban on alcohol. This was done in the 1930s in the twenty-first amendment.
Fun Fact #3
Now, in previous amendments, we have gone through the amendment processes as follows: first the House votes on whether to pass the proposed legislation, and then the Senate votes on the proposed amendment, then Congress as a whole proposes the amendment to the state legislatures where they have the final say on whether the amendment is ratified. However, there is another method that we rarely talk about. This is the method of the state constitutional conventions. The method the architects of Amendment XXI used to ratify the amendment was the method of the state constitutional conventions. You may be wondering: why was this method used in place of the more popular, state legislature route? To answer the question, we must look at the eighteenth amendment. The eighteenth amendment was passed as a result of the great political pressures that the temperance movement had placed on the state legislatures. So, the architects of Amendment XXI, in order to avoid the political pressures that were still holding the state legislatures in favor of prohibition, decided to turn away from the state legislatures, and toward the state constitutional convention.
Fun Fact #4
The first subsection of amendment twenty-one repeals the ban on alcoholic beverages. Yet, in subsection two, the architects of the amendment attempted to place the issue of prohibition back into the hands of the states. However, this was a sad failure, for it was decided by the Supreme Court that states do not have the right to totally ban the consumption of alcohol, for, if consuming an alcoholic beverage was part of a religious service, then states could not deny the religion that right; for, if they did, that would be an infringement on their first amendment right.
Fun Fact #5
Prohibition was an “individual mandate”, meaning that the amendment directly affected the individual. Today, another individual mandate is being debated on the national scale: the issue of health care. Congress made an attempt to force the health care law upon the states and the individuals. Yet, the states quickly caught Congress in action and took the issue to court where it is currently being debated.
Amendment eighteen and twenty-one should be warning labels for anyone seeking to amend the Constitution: when it comes to prohibiting individuals of any of their freedoms, it is better to leave it in the hands of the states.
June 15, 2011 – Amendment XX – Interpretation of Mr. William C. Duncan’s Essay
1: The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
2: The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
3: If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
4: The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.
5: Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.
6: This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
The twentieth amendment to the United States Congress attempts to do away with “lame-duck” sessions of Congress. You may be wondering what a duck has to do with a Congressional session. Well, a “lame-duck” session is the time period, subsequent to the Congressional and Senatorial elections, where the “old” Congress (“old” meaning some members of Congress have been voted out as the result of the prior election), while waiting for the “new” Congress to come claim their seats, are busy “cleaning house” and passing unresolved legislation that they know will not pass when the newly elected Congress beings its term. Now, what does this have to do with Amendment XX?!
Fun Fact #1
Congress proposed this amendment to the several states, in the year of 1932, on the second day of March. This legislation was placed as the twentieth amendment to the United States Constitution on the 23rd day of January in the year 1933, when the states ratified it, 327 days after the original proposal.
Fun Fact #2
Prior to the twentieth amendment, the terms of the newly elected president, vice-president, senators, and representatives, according to the laws of the Constitution, did not begin until March. This resulted in a four-month lag time between when the votes were added together and when the newly elected officials took office. This time period was the lame-duck session we were discussing earlier.
Fun Fact #3
The first subsection of the twentieth amendment specifies when the terms of the President and Vice-president shall end (the 20th day of January, when the clock strikes noon). Senators’ and Representatives’ terms shall end a few days earlier on the third day of January, once again at noontime. However, the year this all happens remains the same as the year previously mentioned in the Articles of the Constitution.
Fun Fact #4
Now, the second subsection of Amendment XX changes when Congress is required to meet. It is still only required to meet once a year, but now on January 3. So, now, when one term terminates, the newly elected officials are required to immediately begin. The date Congress meets can change however if Congress passes a law determining another date. This was added into Amendment XX to try to shorten the “lame-duck” sessions.
Fun Fact #5
Subsection three is interesting. However, to sum it up into a few short and sweet sentences, when the time arrives for the new term to begin for the President-elect, if the President-elect has died or is unqualified for his job, the Vice President-elect takes charge until another President is elected. Now, if something really strange goes on where both the President-elect and the Vice President-elect are unqualified or pass-away, then Congress takes charge and appoints a temporary President and Vice-President until a new batch is elected.
Fun Fact #6
It is interesting to note that after the passage of the twentieth amendment, if something does happen to both the President-elect and the Vice President-elect, the newly elected Congress, instead of the “old” Congress, will appoint the temporary replacement.
Amendment XX is one of those amendments that is rarely debated in the political world and is taken for granted. Amendment twenty so subtly alters our election system that we the voters rarely realize it. However, it is still very important to the election system and the way is it supposed to work!