United States Consitution
(ratified, 1788; amended, 1791-1992)
The complete Constitution, including images, text, and background, is available through The Charters of Freedom at the National Archives.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Summary of Articles I through VII
Article I concerns legislative power.
Article II concerns executive power.
Article III concerns judicial power.
Article IV concerns the power of states.
Article V concerns the amendment process.
Article VI concerns federal power.
Article VII concerns the ratification of the Constitution.
Bill of Rights
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Summary of Amendments XI-XII
(ratified 1795, 1804)
These amendments concern judicial power and the electoral college.
Reconstruction Amendments (XIII-XV)
Amendment XIII (ratified 1865)
Section 1: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment
for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within
the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Note: A portion of Article IV, section 2, of the Constitution was superseded by the 13th amendment.
Amendment XIV (ratified 1868)
Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United
States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United
States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce
any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the
United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,
without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the
equal protection of the laws.
Section 2: Representatives shall be apportioned among the
several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number
of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to
vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President
of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial
officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to
any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,* and
citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation
in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced
in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole
number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
Section 3: No person shall be a Senator or Representative
in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office,
civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having
previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United
States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial
officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall
have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or
comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of
each House, remove such disability.
Section 4: The validity of the public debt of the United
States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions
and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not
be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay
any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against
the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but
all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 5: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
*Changed by section 1 of the 26th amendment.
Note: Article I, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of the 14th amendment.
Amendment XV (ratified 1870)
Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude--
Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Progressive Era Amendments (XVI-XIX)
Amendment XVI (ratified 1913) concerns income tax.
Amendment XVII (ratified 1913)
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
Note: Article I, section 3, of the Constitution was modified by the 17th amendment.
Amendment XVIII (ratified 1919, repealed 1933)
Section 1: After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
Section 2: The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Section 3: This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of 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 XIX (ratified 1920)
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Further Amendments (XIX-XXVII)
Amendment XX (ratified 1933) concerns terms of office and presidential succession.
Amendment XXI (ratified 1933)
Section 1: The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 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.
Section 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.
Amendments XXII through XXV (ratified 1951-1967) concern presidential term limits, elections, and succession.
Amendment XXVI (ratified 1971)
Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Section 2: The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Note: Amendment 14, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 1 of the 26th amendment.
Amendment XXVII (ratified 1992) concerns congressional compensation.