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The fundamental law of the United States of America.
It was framed by a convention of the representatives of the people meeting at Philadelphia and who finally adopted it on September 17, 1787. It became the law of the land on the first Wednesday in March, 1789, after its ratification by the required number of states.
A short analysis of this instrument, so replete with salutary provisions for insuring liberty and private rights, and public peace and prosperity, will here be given.
The preamble declares that the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure public tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
- 1. The first article is divided into ten sections. By the first the legislative power is vested in Congress. The second regulates the formation of the House Of Representatives and declares who shall be electors. The third provides for the organization of the Senate and bestows on it the power to try impeachments. The fourth directs the times and places of holding elections and the time of meeting of Congress. The fifth determines the power of the respective houses. The sixth provides for a compensation to members of Congress, for their safety from arrests and disqualifies them from holding certain offices. The seventh directs the manner of passing bills. The eighth defines the powers vested in Congress. The ninth contains the following provisions: 1st. That the migration or importation of persons shall not be prohibited prior to the year 1808; 2d. That the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, except in particular cases; 3d. That no bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, shall be passed; 4th. The manner of laying taxes; 5th. The manner of drawing money out of the treasury; 6th. That no title of nobility shall be granted; 7th. That no officer shall receive a present from a foreign government. The tenth forbids the respective states to exercise certain powers there enumerated.
- 2. The second article is divided into four sections. The first vests the executive power in the President of the United States of America, and provides for his election and that of the vice-president. The second section confers various powers on the President. The third defines his duties. The fourth provides for the impeachment of the President, vice-president, and all civil officers of the United States.
- 3. The third article contains three sections. The first vests the judicial power in sundry courts, provides for the tenure of office by the judges, and for their compensation. The second provides for the extent of the judicial power, vests in the Supreme Court original jurisdiction in certain cases, and directs the manner of trying crimes. The third defines treason, and vests in Congress the power to declare its punishment.
- 4. The fourth article is composed of four sections. The first relates to the faith which state records, etc., shall have in other states. The second secures the rights of citizens in the several states for the delivery of fugitives from justice or from labor. The third for the admission of new states, and the government of the territories. The fourth guaranties to every state in the Union the republican form of government, and protection from invasion or domestic violence.
- 5. The fifth article provides for amendments to the Constitution.
- 6. The sixth article declares that the debts due under the confederation shall be valid against the United States; that the Constitution and treaties made under its powers shall be the supreme law of the land that public officers shall be required by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of the United States that no religious test shall be required as a qualification for office.
- 7. The seventh article directs what shall be a sufficient ratification of this Constitution by the states.
In pursuance of the fifth article of the Constitution, articles in addition to and amendment of, the Constitution, were proposed by Congress and ratified by the legislatures of the several states. The first ten of these additional articles, known as the Bill Of Rights, are as follows:
- 1. Relates to religious freedom; liberty of the press; the right of the people to assemble and petition.
- 2. Secures to the people the right to bear arms.
- 3. Provides for the quartering of soldiers.
- 4. Regulates the right of search, and of arrest on criminal charges.
- 5. Directs the manner of being held to answer for crimes and provides for the security of the life, liberty and property of the citizens.
- 6. Secures to the accused the right to a fair trial by jury.
- 7. Provides for a trial by jury in civil cases.
- 8. Directs that excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
- 9. Secures to the people the rights retained by them.
- 10. Secures the rights to the states, or to the people, the rights they have not granted.