Critical Documents of the U.S.A.

Declaration of Independence

When and why the 13 American Colonies declared their separation from England. Details of philosophical assumptions behind this declaration. Details of reasons this act became necesary. Declaration of responsibilities America embraces by this act.

Fifty-six signatures representing the thirteen colonies.


Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation comprises the primary law of the Federal Government.

Note: The Articles of Confederation were replaced by The Constitution.

Preamble
Statement of the purpose of this document
Article I
The name of this new nation.
Article II
States retain their rights not expressly given to the Federal Government.
Article III
States agree to common defence and assistance.
Article IV
Individual Rights in one state are acknowledged by all States.
All States will honor extradition requests from other States.
All States will accept legal documents rfom other States.
Article V
Definition of Congress.
Article VI
Restrictions on State powers.
Article VII
States appoint officers of "Colonel" or below.
Article VIII
War debts paid from the common treasury; filled by taxes to the States according to a Land Tax.
Article IX
Specific Federal Powers.
Article X
How Congress can act when not in session.
Article XI
Canada can join if they want to.
Article XII
Debts incurred by this Government before these Articles will still be paid.
Article XIII
These Artices are binding on all States forever, and cannot be changed except by unanimous vote of all States.

Constitution

The Constitution of the United States comprises the primary law of the U.S. Federal Government. It also describes the three chief branches of the Federal Government and their jurisdictions. In addition, it lays out the basic rights of citizens of the United States. The Constitution of the United States is the oldest Federal constitution in existence and was framed by a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen original states in Philadelphia in May 1787. The Constitution is the landmark legal document of the United States.

Preamble
Statement of the purpose of this document
Article I
Definition of Congress
Section 1
The authority to make new laws belongs to Congress, which is in two parts -- The House of Representatives and The Senate.
Section 2 (modified by Amendment 14.2) (modified by Amendment 26.1)
Details on The House of Representatives -- how long terms are, how many per state, ....
Section 3 (modified by Amendment 17)
Details on The Senate -- how long terms are, how many per state, ....
Section 4 (modified by Amendment 20.2)
Each state decides how to elect Representatives and Senators. Congress meets at least once a year.
Section 5
Each House decides for itself how the meetings are run. A record is kept of all proceedings. Neither House may close early without the consent of the other.
Section 6
During session, Representatives and Senators are exempt from many laws. May not serve in any other civil office while serving in Congress.
Section 7
How laws raising money must proceed. The Checks and Balances for new laws. All votes recorded. How Congress can overrule the President.
Section 8
Only Congress can define and collect taxes. The Enumerated Powers of Congress.
Section 9 (modified by Amendment 16)
Limits on certains kinds of laws and taxes that Congress may not do.
Section 10
Things States may not do without prior permission from Congress.
Article II
Definition of The President
Section 1 (modified by Amendment 12, Amendment 22 and Amendment 25)
Details on how long the President serves, and how the President is elected.
Section 2
The President commands the military. The President can make treaties with other countries. The President can appoint people to finish out terms if there is a vacancy in Congress.
Section 3
The President reports to Congress and may raise topics for their consideration. The President sees to it that laws passed by Congress are enforced.
Section 4
The President (and other elected and appointed officials) will be removed from office if both Impeached and Convicted of Treason, Bribery or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Article III
Definition of the Supreme Court
Section 1
The Supreme Court rules on cases of law, may establish other courts. Such judges hold office for life. Compensation never decreases.
Section 2 (modified by Amendment 11)
Details on what kind of cases this court rules on.
Section 3
Definition of Treason; limits punishment to the individual.
Article IV
Definition of State Equality
Section 1
State decisions are acknowledged by all states.
Section 2 (modified by Amendment 13)
Citizens of one state are citizens of all states.
Citizens charged with crimes in one State and fleeing to another State, will be extridited.
Legal contracts in one State are binding even in a State where they would not have been legal.
Section 3
Details on how new States can join.
Section 4
Every state guaranteed republic form of government, protection from invasion, protection from domestic violence.
Article V
Definition of how Congress may make Amendments to this Constitution.
Article VI
All promises made by this government before this Constitution was written are still binding. This Constitution and the laws made by Congress override any State Constitution or State level law. All elected and appointed public officials are bound by this Constitution. There shall be no religious test for any elected or appointed public office.
Article VII
Definition of how this Constitution gets ratified into Law.

Bill of Rights

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution
Amendment 1
Limits on what kinds of laws Congress may make, protecting personal freedoms.
Amendment 2
The right to keep and bear arms.
Commentary
Amendment 3
Military will not be housed by civilians without consent.
Amendment 4
Protection against improper search and seizure.
Amendment 5
Protection of individual rights during criminal proceedings.
Amendment 6
Protection of individual rights to speedy, public and fair trial.
Amendment 7
Civil law cases -- when jury required, no double-jeopardy.
Amendment 8
Protection from excessive fines, excessive bail, and excessive punishment.
Amendment 9
The Constitution and this Bill of Rights does NOT mean that you have no other rights.
Amendment 10
Each state has its own authority where not in conflict with the Constitution.
Each individual has their own authority where not in conflict with this or State Constitutions.

Amendments 11 -- 27

17 additional amendments to the Constitution
Amendment 11 (modifies: Constitution Article III, section 2)
Federal Court has no authority in civil cases against an individual State.
Amendment 12 (modifies: Constitution Article II, section 1) (modified by: Amendment 20, section 3)
Electoral College procedures for electing the President and Vice-President. How Congress shall resolve very close ties. Quorum defined for these cases.
Amendment 13 (modifies: Constitution Article IV, section 2)
Abolishment of Slavery and Indentured Servitude except as punishment for crime.
Amendment 14 (modifies: Constitution Article I, section 2)
Section 1
States may not restrict citizen rights granted at the Federal level.
States may not restrict citizen freedoms except within the laws.
States must dispense justice equally to all in their jurisdiction.
Section 2 (modified by: Amendment 26, section 1)
How to count population to determine number of Representatives for each state.
Section 3
Restriction on who may be a member of Congress or the Electoral College.
How Congress may lift this restriction in individual cases.
Section 4
The Federal Government shall honor all legal debts, including those to suppress rebellion.
Neither the Federal nor State Governments shall consider debts in support of, or resulting from, rebellion to be legal.
Section 5
Congress may make new laws as necessary to enforce this amendment.
Amendment 15
Neither the Federal nor State Governments shall prevent a citizen from voting for race related reasons.
Congress may make new laws as necessary to enforce this amendment.
Amendment 16 (modifies: Constitution Article I, section 9)
Congress may impose an Income Tax.
Amendment 17 (modifies: Constitution Article I, section 3)
Details of Senator's terms, how they vote, how vacancies are filled.
Amendment 18 (repealed by: Amendment 21)
Prohibition of Alcohol.
Amendment 19
Neither the Federal nor State Governments shall prevent a citizen from voting for reason of sex.
Congress may make new laws as necessary to enforce this amendment.
Amendment 20 (modifies: Constitution Article I, section 4) (supercedes: Amendment 12, in part)
Specific dates for terms of office for President, Vice-President, and Congress.
Specific date for the begining of the session for Congress.
Defines who is Acting-President during unexpected transitions. Who in Congress chooses President or Vice-President if one dies in office.
Amendment 21 (repeals: Amendment 18)
Amendment 18, the Prohibition of Alcohol, is hereby repealed.
Each State may pass laws concerning alcohol production and transportation.
Amendment 22
Presidential Term Limits.
Amendment 23
Land for Federal Capitol Dictrict treated like the least populous State for purposes of electing President and Vice-President.
Amendment 24
Neither the Federal nor State Governments shall prevent a citizen from voting for failure to pay taxes.
Amendment 25 (modifies: Constitution Article II, section 1)
Defines the chain of command when President or Vice-President can not serve.
Amendment 26 (modifies: Amendment 14, section 2)
Voting age reduced to 18.
Amendment 27
Laws that change the pay of a member of Congress do not take effect until a regular election for Congress.

Bill of No-Rights

(OK, so this isn't a real document, just common sense stuff.)
A collection of ten things people often assume are their Rights in life, and commentary on why they aren't rights.
Preamble
Statement of the purpose of this document.
Non-Right 1
It is not a Right to be rich.
Non-Right 2
It is not a Right to never be offended.
Non-Right 3
It is not a Right to never be hurt.
Non-Right 4
It is not a Right to receive Welfare or Charity.
Non-Right 5
It is not a Right to receive free Health Care.
Non-Right 6
It is not a Right to harm others.
Non-Right 7
It is not a Right to take what doesn't belong to you.
Non-Right 8
It is not a Right to interfere with the rights of others.
Non-Right 9
It is not a Right to have a job.
Non-Right 10
It is not a Right to be happy.



[Important Government Documents (index)]
[Summary of Documents]
[The Declaration of Independence]
[Articles of Confederation]
[The Constitution]
[The Bill of Rights]
[Amendments 11-27]
[The Bill of No-Rights]