- The US Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified in 1788.
- In 1791, the Bill of Rights was also ratified with 10 amendments.
- Since then, 17 more amendments have been added.
- The amendments deal with a variety of rights ranging from freedom of speech to the right to vote.
The Constitution of the United States was written in 1787 by 55 delegates at a Constitutional Convention. Its purpose was to revise the weaker Articles of Confederation that had held the 13 states together after they gained independence from Britain.
Before it could be put into place, it had to be ratified by conventions from each of the 13 states, where the delegates argued both for and against the binding document. One of the main arguments against the ratification of the US Constitution was the lack of specified individual rights and liberties, so James Madison drafted a set of amendments to add to the US Constitution if it was ratified.
By June 1789, Madison submitted 12 amendments, though only 10 were passed and ratified in 1791 as the Bill of Rights.
Since then, 17 more amendments have been passed and ratified by the process laid out in Article 5 of the US Constitution, where an amendment is proposed by either a two-thirds vote in Congress or a national convention of two-thirds of the states.
Those proposals are then ratified by either three-fourths of the state legislatures or by state conventions in three-fourths of the states to become amendments added to the US Constitution.
Here are the 27 amendments to the US Constitution – ranging from personal rights to procedural laws – including their history and the lasting impact they have left on the United States.
The First Amendment famously protects freedom of speech.
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.
The First Amendment lays out five basic freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the freedom to petition the government.
These rights were important to establish because they ensured that individuals could think, speak, and act without fear of being punished for disagreeing with the government.
In addition to being arguably one of the most important amendments, the First Amendment is still very much at the center of America’s political discourse today – from questioning whether or not Twitter bots have First Amendment rights to whether or not the White House banning a CNN reporter violates the Constitution.
The Second Amendment deals with the right to bear arms.
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.
The Second Amendment supports the right to own firearms, though it’s been hotly debated whether the Constitution’s framers only had in mind the militia’s use of guns or if any citizen had a constitutional right to a firearm (this confusion is largely due to the four commas in the amendment that are grammatically confusing).
It has since become one of the most politicized amendments. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that US citizens have a constitutional right to keep a loaded handgun at home for self-defence. Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority decision, did lay out a number of provisions:
“Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
The decision was largely seen as a major win for those who believe the amendment refers to individuals’ rights to bear arms.
The Third Amendment prohibits forcing citizens to provide lodging for soldiers.
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 Third Amendment prohibits the government from forcing citizens to give lodging to soldiers in their homes without permission. Before the Revolutionary War, Americans were required to give food and lodging to British soldiers as part of the 1765 Quartering Act.
According to the National Constitution Center, the Third Amendment is the least litigated in the Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court has never decided a case based on it.
The Fourth Amendment deals with search and seizure.
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.
The Fourth Amendment prevents the government or police from searching or seizing the homes, belongings, or bodies of citizens without probable cause or a warrant.
One of the most significant impacts of the Fourth Amendment was in the case of Weeks v United States (1914) when the Supreme Court decided that evidence taken in violation of the Fourth Amendment could not be used in court, which is called the exclusionary rule.
The Fifth Amendment is the source of the common phrase, “I plead the Fifth.”
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 offence 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.
The Fifth Amendment gives people accused of crimes a variety of rights and protections, including: the right to a grand jury indictment for felony offenses in federal court, the restriction on double jeopardy (being put on trial for the same crime after being found not guilty), protection against forced self-incrimination, the guarantee of due process of law and the prevention of the government taking private property for public use without proper compensation.
The most significant Supreme Court decision relating to the Fifth Amendment outside of criminal trials, according to the National Constitution Center, was Miranda v Arizona (1966), where the Supreme Court decided that police must give criminal suspects a set of warnings before they can be questioned. This is called their Miranda rights. These rights are in direct relation to the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment.
The Sixth Amendment includes the right to a speedy trial.
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 favour, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees people accused of a crime receive fair and accurate criminal proceedings, including: the right to a speedy, public trial by jury from the area where the crime was committed, the right to confront and question witnesses against the accused, the right to subpoena witnesses and have them testify at trial, and the right to a lawyer.
Although criminal institutions in America have changed since 1791 and something like a “speedy trial” could actually mean years in today’s court system, the Sixth Amendment sets a standard for justice and criminal proceedings, particularly in specifying the rights of those accused of crimes.
The Seventh Amendment deals with jury trials for civil cases involving property worth more than $US20.
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.
The Seventh Amendment promises the right to a jury trial for civil cases that involve property worth more than $US20. Even though criminal cases that go to trial always have juries, civil cases rarely do.
According to the National Constitution Center, jury trials for civil cases were an important way to protect against biased or corrupt judges. However, juries only decide less than 1% of civil cases filed in court today.
The Eighth Amendment prevents the government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment on criminal defendants.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The Eighth Amendment prevents the federal government from imposing excessive bail and inflicting cruel or unusual punishment on criminal defendants.
Some, including the American Civil Liberties Union, argue that the death penalty is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The Ninth Amendment establishes that people have additional rights, even if they are not included in the US Constitution.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The Ninth Amendment essentially just clarifies that even though the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights names certain rights, that doesn’t mean that people don’t have other rights not specifically included in the US Constitution.
One of the supporters of the US Constitution, James Wilson, worried that by naming or enumerating specific rights, any powers not mentioned would be assumed to belong to the federal government, so the Ninth Amendment makes it clear that is not the case.
The 10th Amendment helps keep the federal government limited.
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.
The 10th Amendment leaves any powers not specifically assigned to the federal government to each state or to the people. This amendment protects against the possibility of the national government assuming powers that have not already been assigned to it and is greatly important to keep the federal government limited as the US Constitution framers intended.
The 11th Amendment is the only amendment related to the judicial branch of the government.
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.
The 11th Amendment prevents federal courts from hearing lawsuits against states, which changes part of Article III, Section 2 of the US Constitution. It was passed by Congress on March 4, 1794, and ratified on February 7, 1795.
The proposal for this amendment was introduced one day after the Supreme Court ruled that an individual could sue a state in federal court in the case of Chisholm v Georgia(1793). Today, these lawsuits are tried in state courts. This is also the only amendment related to the judicial branch of the government.
The 12th Amendment changed the presidential election process.
This is a long one:
The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;
The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;
The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.
The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.
The 12th Amendment– which was passed by Congress on December 9, 1803, and ratified on June 15, 1804 – changed the presidential election process as laid out in Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution and fixed several problems that came up because of the development of political parties and how that affected the electoral college.
The 12th Amendment was passed in response to a tie vote in the 1800 election between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. However, the 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, changed the dates of presidential terms and Congressional sessions.
The 13th Amendment freed all slaves and indentured servants throughout the United States.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The 13th Amendment– passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865 – abolished slavery and superseded a part of Article 4, Section 2 of the US Constitution, which set out that fugitive slaves be returned to their owners.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued on January 1, 1863, only freed slaves from the Confederate states that had seceded. The 13th Amendment was able to free all slaves and indentured servants throughout the country.
It did not, however, grant black Americans the right to vote.
The 14th Amendment defines what it means to be a citizen of the United States and also protects civil rights.
Realising the 13th Amendment didn’t go far enough, the 14th Amendment was passed by Congress on June 13, 1866, and ratified on July 9, 1868:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorised by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
The 14th Amendment has five sections that include: defining citizenship rights, apportionment of representatives, denying public office to those who have participated in insurrection, invalidating Confederate debt, and giving Congress the power to enforce the amendment.
Section 1 is one of the most important parts of this amendment because it grants former slaves citizenship in the United States and guarantees former slaves equal protection and due process.
In one of the most notable cases related to this amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that racial segregation in public schools violated the 14th Amendment. It was also used in landmark cases like Roe v. Wade (1973), about abortion, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), about same-sex marriage.
The 15th Amendment deals with the right to vote in the US.
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, colour, or previous condition of servitude.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The 15th Amendment – which was passed by Congress on February 26, 1869, and ratified on February 3, 1870 – guarantees the right to vote and guarantees that right cannot be denied based on race.
Despite this amendment, discriminatory practices continued in voting booths, including literacy tests and poll taxes, to prevent black Americans from voting until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Voter suppression remains an issue to this day.
The 16th Amendment deals with taxes.
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.
The 16th Amendment was passed by Congress on July 2, 1909, and ratified on February 3, 1913. It gives Congress the power to collect income tax, which changes a part of Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution. This amendment reversed the Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company (1895) Supreme Court decision that made a national income tax almost impossible.
The 17th Amendment lays out how US senators are elected.
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.
The 17th Amendment– which was passed by Congress on May 13, 1912, and ratified on April 8, 1913 – made it so that US senators would be voted into office by direct elections instead of by state legislatures, as set out in Article I, Section 3 of the US Constitution. This is one of the only substantial changes made to the structure of Congress since it was laid out in the original US Constitution.
The 18th Amendment made the production, transport, and sale of alcohol illegal.
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.
The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
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.
The 18th Amendment enacted the prohibition of manufacturing and selling alcohol, beginning one year after the ratification of the amendment.
It was passed by Congress on December 18, 1917, and ratified on January 16, 1919. Prohibition was in effect for 13 years before it was repealed in 1933 by the 21st Amendment.
The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.
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 sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Before the 19th Amendment existed – it was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920 – Susan B. Anthony argued that the 14th Amendment privileges and immunities clause gave women the right to vote since they had been citizens all along.
In Minor v Happersett (1875), the Supreme Court decided that being citizens alone did not give women the right to vote, so the women’s suffrage movement worked to get a US Constitutional Amendment passed to give women the right to vote.
Today, women make a major difference in elections and are running for office themselves. There is still a ways to go for equal representation: Women make up 24% of Congress, 27% of state legislators, 18% of governors, and 22% of mayors, according to Ignite.
The 20th Amendment determined the beginning and end date of presidential terms and Congressional sessions.
The 20th Amendment was passed by Congress on March 2, 1932, and ratified on January 23, 1933:
The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.
Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
The 20th Amendment set the beginning and end of presidential terms and Congressional sessions. It also lays out the order of presidential succession, but that order was later altered by the 25th Amendment.
In 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to be inaugurated in January, as set out by the 20th Amendment, instead of in March, or in April, as George Washington had been.
The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition.
The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition. It was passed by Congress on February 20, 1933, and ratified on December 5, 1933.
This is the only amendment that repeals a previous amendment and it is the only amendment that was ratified by the state ratifying conventions as opposed to the legislatures of the states.
The 22nd Amendment limits presidential terms to two.
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President, when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.
The 22nd Amendment– which was passed by Congress on March 21, 1947, and ratified on February 27, 1951 – limits presidential terms to two. This is mostly because George Washington decided to retire after just two terms, which set the precedent for the next 150 years of presidents in the United States. The 22nd Amendment was passed out of fear of a tyrannical president.
Prior to the passage of this amendment, Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected to four terms as president, serving from 1933 until his death in 1945.
The 23rd Amendment allows Washington, DC, citizens the right to choose electors in presidential elections.
The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The 23rd Amendment was passed by Congress June 16, 1960, and ratified on March 29, 1961. It allowed the citizens of Washington, DC, to choose electors for presidential elections because, as citizens of a federal district and not a state, DC residents are not citizens of a state.
Before this amendment was ratified, DC residents were denied the right to vote for federal public officials. Today, DC residents are still unrepresented in Congress, but they have a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives.
The 24th Amendment abolished poll taxes, which had previously been required to vote in elections.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The 24th Amendment was passed by Congress on August 27, 1962, and ratified on January 23, 1964. It abolished poll taxes, which had previously been required to vote in elections. When the US Constitution was first ratified, most states allowed only property owners to vote, but as time went on, many states moved to poll taxes.
At first, that expanded the right to vote because more citizens could pay the poll tax than prove they were property owners. However, poll taxes were brought back as a way to prevent black Americans from voting until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The 25th Amendment sets the order of succession for the president and lays out what to do in the case of presidential incapacity.
Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
The 25th Amendment– which was passed by Congress on July 6, 1965, and ratified on February 10, 1967 – sets the order of succession for the president and lays out what to do in the case of presidential incapacity.
This amendment has only been used three times since it was ratified, to relieve presidents from their duties because of physical health. It was initially passed out of fear of presidential succession after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
The first use of the 25th Amendment was in 1974 when Gerald R. Ford became president after Richard Nixon’s resignation. The second use was in 1985 when Ronald Reagan temporarily handed his presidential powers to Vice President George H. W. Bush during a surgery.
George W. Bush invoked the 25th Amendment twice during his presidency to give Vice President Dick Cheney presidential powers while he had routine colonoscopies in 2002 and in 2007.
The 26th Amendment allowed 18-year-old US citizens to vote. Before the 26th Amendment was ratified, Americans voted at age 21.
The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The 26th Amendment allowed 18-year-old US citizens to vote and modified Amendment 14, Section 2 of the US Constitution. This is the last amendment that deals with voting rights protections. Before the 26th Amendment was ratified, Americans voted at age 21.
However, during the Vietnam War, men were being drafted from the age of 18 and yet they didn’t have the right to vote, so Congress passed the Voting Rights Act that lowered the voting age for all elections at the federal, state and local level to 18. It was passed by Congress on March 23, 1971, and ratified on July 1, 1971.
The Supreme Court held in Oregon v. Mitchell (1970) that Congress couldn’t require state and local governments to lower the voting age, so the 26th Amendment was ratified in order to do that.
The 27th Amendment made it so pay raises or decreases for members of Congress can only take effect after the next election.
No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
The 27th Amendment, also known as the Congressional Compensation Act of 1789, was the second amendment that James Madison proposed when he brought forward his draft of 12 amendments to the US Constitution. It says that pay raises or decreases for members of Congress can only take effect after the next election.
When it was originally proposed in 1789, only six states voted for it to be ratified including Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. For 80 years, the proposal was untouched, but Ohio ratified it in 1873 and Wyoming ratified it in 1978.
In 1982, a movement to ratify the amendment was started by an undergraduate student to prevent corruption in Congress. By the ’90s, the necessary 38 states had ratified the amendment, almost 203 years after it was proposed. It was ratified on May 7, 1992.
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