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
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
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Constitution of the United States of America
Articles I - VII Summary
establishes Congress, specifically:
the House of Representatives: apportionment (modified by 14th Amendment, Section 2)
the Senate elected by State Legislatures(changed by the 20th Amendment, Section 2)
elections for House and Senate prescribed by States
quorums, rules for each house
members of Congress shall receive compensation
the manner in which legislation is created. All bills for raising revenue must originate in the
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
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.
restrict states from:
entering into treaties
establishing duty on imports
keeping troops or ships in time of peace
enter into agreements with another State or foreign power
establishes the offices of the President and Vice-President of the United States
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
establishes Supreme Court and other courts
defines scope of the power of the courts
establishes inter-state transactions
citizens of each state: reciprocity of many things
new states; rules for Territories
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
Amendments 1 - 10
(The "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 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.
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.
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For the following, we're using summaries from Wikipedia.
Amendments 11 - 27
Makes states immune from suits from out-of-state citizens and foreigners not living within the state borders; lays the foundation for sovereign immunity
Revises presidential election procedures
Abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime
Defines citizenship, contains the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection
Clause, and deals with post-Civil War issues
Prohibits the denial of suffrage based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude
Allows the federal government to collect income tax
Establishes the direct election of United States Senators by popular vote
Establishes prohibition of alcohol (repealed by Twenty-first Amendment)
Establishes women's suffrage
Fixes the dates of term commencements for Congress (January 3) and the President (January 20); known as the "lame duck amendment"
Repeals the Eighteenth Amendment and prohibits violations of state laws regarding alcohol
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
Provides for representation of Washington, D.C., in the Electoral College
Prohibits the revocation of voting rights due to the non-payment of poll taxes
Codifies the Tyler Precedent; defines the process of presidential succession
Establishes the right to vote for those age 18 years or older
Prevents laws affecting Congressional salary from taking effect until after the next election of the representatives
List and history of all Amendments (Wikipedia)
Bill of Rights history (Wikipedia)