In the last article in this series, I said I would start with a couple articles on The Constitution. We’ll start it off with the Preamble:
” We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
This is quite possibly the only well known part of the constitution, and so I’ll not go into it further than to just give you that quote. You can find the whole Constitution here.
I’ll be starting in Article 1 of the Constitution.
Article 1 of the Constitution concerns the Legislative Branch, what it’s made up of, its powers, and the powers it is not allowed.
Article 1 Section 1 – states that all the power granted in Article 1 belongs to Congress.
Article 1 Section 2 – 4 – Basically, these sections are the requirements for becoming a member of congress, and how the House of Representatives and the Senate are formed. It gives age and years as a US citizen as requirements for both (different between them), and explains that the Officers of the House are elected by the House, and the President of the Senate is the VP of the US.
Article 1 Section 5 – 7 – These sections explain how things within Congress work, and define the only two powers specific to the different houses: Impeachment and Trial of Impeachment. House of Representatives is the only part of the government that may bring impeachment charges against someone in a high office, and the Senate is the only Jury allowed to try the case. (The Supreme Justice presides over it, of course)
Article 1 Section 8 – Powers of Congress. This section is a bit long winded. But I can’t really boil this down, because this is the really important section. So, I’ve tried to cover everything in more modern terms, but it’s still rather boring. Let’s just jump right in to it.
The Congress has the power to collect taxes for paying the Debt, to provide for common Defense or for the general Welfare. Congress can borrow money on the US’s credit. Congress can regulate commerce between the States and with other Countries. They can Coin Money, regulate its value and fix measurement standards.
They can make uniform rules for naturalization and for bankruptcies. They can punish counterfeiting. They can establish Post Offices and Postal Roads. They are required to promote the Arts and Sciences by securing exclusive rights to Authors and Inventors.
They can create tribunals below the Supreme Court. They can define and punish Piracy and Felony on the High Seas. They can declare war. They can raise and support Armies, “but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for longer than” two years. (Author’s aside: Either I’m reading that line wrong, or they’ve been breaking this one for about a century)
They can provide and maintain a Navy, make rules for government and the armed forces. They can call forth Militia to execute the Laws, suppress Insurrection and repel Invasions.
They can provide organization, arms and training for the armed forces. The actual authority over the armed forces falls to the States they’re housed in. (Author’s note: I’m fairly certain I’m not reading the original incorrectly, and I’m pretty sure they’ve been ignoring this as well) They have exclusive legislative power over Federal property (and they give a list of acceptable reasons for appropriating Federal property).
Article 1 Section 9 – Limits. This is another section that our officials don’t seem to regard very highly. This is probably because they’ve broken all of the limits already, with the notable exception of recieving titles from foreign nations. (I have my doubts about whether or not they’re recieving payment from them, but that’s just suspicion)
Congress is not allowed to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Congress is not allowed to pass Bill of Attainder or ex post facto laws. (That means no laws that punish things that happened before the law was written) Congress cannot Tax or place Duties on exports. Congress can’t show preference between the states through their regulation of commerce. Congress can’t take money from the treasury without Appropriation by Law, and must publish all receipts and expenditures. Congress can’t grant Titles of Nobility. No person holding public office can receive presents, Office, Titles or jobs from foreign nations.
Article 1 Section 10 – Powers Prohibited to States. This is an incredibly brief section, and for good reason. The Founders thought that States should be more powerful than the Federal government. States can’t make treaties, alliances or confederations. The States can’t make money out of something that is not Gold or Silver. The States can’t put Duties or taxes on imports or exports. The States can’t keep troops during peace time.
That’s all there is to Article 1 of the Constitution. Next, we’re going to go through Article 2, which is about the Executive Branch of government.