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Learn the U.S. Constitution – Day 18 

 November 28, 2020

By  Oak Norton

U.S. Constitution Class

Day 18: U.S. Constitution

Amendments to the Constitution

AMENDMENT XV

Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 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.

AMENDMENT XVI

Passed by Congress July 2, 1909. Ratified February 3, 1913.

Note: Article I, section 9, of the Constitution was modified by amendment 16.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

AMENDMENT XVII

Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913.

Note: Article I, section 3, of the Constitution was modified by the 17th amendment.

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.

AMENDMENT XVIII

Passed by Congress December 18, 1917. Ratified January 16, 1919. Repealed by amendment 21. (This was a prohibition law that was later repealed)

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.

Questions:

1) What was taxation by apportionment?

2) What changed with the 17th amendment?

Answers:

1) An apportionment is a proportionate distribution so prior to the 16th amendment, each state’s population was counted, and then a tax bill was given to each state based on the number of citizens they had so that every citizen counted equally for taxation. The 16th amendment changed article 1, section 2, clause 3’s equitable distribution of expenses across the states by supposedly shifting the burden from states to the wealthy. In reality, the wealthy found ways to shelter their wealth through tax free foundations and other such vehicles. The initial income tax was a flat fee over a certain amount of income, but soon morphed into the progressive/graduated taxation system we still have today.

Some point out that this amendment does considerable damage to the 4th amendment, which is our right to privacy. By taxing income, government is able to force the people to reveal the inner details of their lives in order to ensure compliance. Other systems of taxation have been proposed such as a national sales tax which would only tax individuals when they spend money outwardly, but none have yet made a serious challenge to replacing the current system.

2) This amendment gave the people the right to vote for their senators. State legislatures previously selected individuals to represent the state in the Senate (as per Article 1, section 3 of the Constitution). This was an important check and balance to the people’s representatives in the House. Where representatives could promise things to the people and get involved in the hot topics of the day, the senate represented the state and the state’s interests and could rise above that, focusing on protecting the states rights and tempering political promises with reason. This conflict with representatives desires was a healthy battlefield for ideas and the infighting between the chambers made sure that any bill that got through was both good for the people, and the states they lived in.

However, at this time there were issues with senators engaged in corrupt practices and a number of states individually passed laws to allow for the direct recommendation to their state legislatures who they wanted as senators. One senator was exposed as having completely bought his seat, which broke down further resistance to this amendment and it finally passed in 1913.

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(Featured Image by W. Scott McGill  @123rf.com)

Oak Norton


Father of 5 children, husband to 1 amazingly patient woman, entrepreneur, and education advocate.

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