Declaration of Independence

Adopted by the Continental Congress July 4, 1776

- Introduction -

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

- Preamble -

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

For full text and history see Wikipedia (click here)

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Constitution of the United States of America

Articles I - VII Summary


Section 1:

establishes Congress, specifically:

Section 2:

the House of Representatives: apportionment (modified by 14th Amendment, Section 2)

Section 3:

the Senate elected by State Legislatures(changed by the 20th Amendment, Section 2)

Section 4:

elections for House and Senate prescribed by States

Section 5:

quorums, rules for each house

Section 6:

members of Congress shall receive compensation

Section 7:

the manner in which legislation is created. All bills for raising revenue must originate in the House

Section 8:

Congress has the power to:
collect uniform taxes, duties, etc.

to borrow money

to regulate commerce with foreign countries, between states, etc.

to create uniform laws of Naturalization of Citizens,

to create uniform laws of bankruptcies

to coin money

to criminalize counterfeiting

to create a Post Office and Post Roads

to create laws governing patents and copyrights

to create courts below the Supreme Court

to create laws against piracy

to declare war

to establish rules for an Army and a Navy

to establish a seat of government and other government property/installations

Section 9:

specifies laws on the Writ of Habeas Corpus, Bills of Attainder, ex post facto laws.

forbids export taxes from States

limits poll taxes and taxes on individuals (changed by 16th Amendment)

forbids duties, taxes etc. between States.

forbids granting titles of nobility, or receiving (without consent of Congress any gift from any foreign source.

Section 10:

restrict states from:

entering into treaties

coining money

establishing duty on imports

keeping troops or ships in time of peace

enter into agreements with another State or foreign power

declare war


Section 1:

establishes the offices of the President and Vice-President of the United States

Section 2:

grants presidential powers:

Commander-in-Chief of the military forces

make treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate

appoint various federal officials

convene House and Senate

Section 3: directs President to deliver State of the Union Address

Section 4: removal from office


Section 1:

establishes Supreme Court and other courts

Section 2:

defines scope of the power of the courts

Section 3:

defines treason


Section 1:

establishes inter-state transactions

Section 2:

citizens of each state: reciprocity of many things

Section 3:

new states; rules for Territories

Section 4:

protection of states


Provision for Amendments


handling pre-Constitution debts

The Constitution shall be the supreme law of the land. Judges shall be bound by the U.S Constitution over state constitutions
Senators, Representatives etc of US and States shall be bound by Constitution

forbids religious tests to hold office


Ratifies Constitution

Amendments 1 - 10

(The "Bill of Rights")

Amendment 1:

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.

Amendment 2:

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.

Amendment 3:

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.

Amendment 4:

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.

Amendment 5:

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 offense 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.

Amendment 6:

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.

Amendment 7:

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.

Amendment 8:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment 9:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10:

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.

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For the following, we're using summaries from Wikipedia.

Amendments 11 - 27

Amendment 11:

Makes states immune from suits from out-of-state citizens and foreigners not living within the state borders; lays the foundation for sovereign immunity

Amendment 12:

Revises presidential election procedures

Amendment 13:
Abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime

Amendment 14:
Defines citizenship, contains the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and deals with post-Civil War issues

Amendment 15:
Prohibits the denial of suffrage based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude

Amendment 16:
Allows the federal government to collect income tax

Amendment 17:
Establishes the direct election of United States Senators by popular vote

Amendment 18:
Establishes prohibition of alcohol (repealed by Twenty-first Amendment)

Amendment 19:
Establishes women's suffrage

Amendment 20:
Fixes the dates of term commencements for Congress (January 3) and the President (January 20); known as the "lame duck amendment"

Amendment 21:
Repeals the Eighteenth Amendment and prohibits violations of state laws regarding alcohol

Amendment 22:
Limits the number of times that a person can be elected president: a person cannot be elected president more than twice, and a person who has served more than two years of a term to which someone else was elected cannot be elected more than once

Amendment 23:
Provides for representation of Washington, D.C., in the Electoral College

Amendment 24:
Prohibits the revocation of voting rights due to the non-payment of poll taxes

Amendment 25:
Codifies the Tyler Precedent; defines the process of presidential succession

Amendment 26:
Establishes the right to vote for those age 18 years or older

Amendment 27:
Prevents laws affecting Congressional salary from taking effect until after the next election of the representatives

US Constitution (Official site)

List and history of all Amendments (Wikipedia)

Bill of Rights history (Wikipedia)