Constitutional Amendments Summary

YEAR OF RATIFICATION 1791

First-Tenth Amendments – Known as the “Bill of Rights”

During the debates on the adoption of the Constitution, its opponents repeatedly charged that the Constitution as drafted would open the way to tyranny by the central government. Fresh in their minds was the memory of the British violation of civil rights before and during the Revolution. They demanded a “bill of rights” that would spell out the “rights” of individual citizens. Several state conventions in their formal ratification of the Constitution asked for such amendments; others ratified the Constitution with the understanding that the amendments would be offered.

Therefore, on September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States   ratified the first 10 amendments of the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

1st Amendment (1791):

Guarantees the right to the freedoms of speech, press, and religion. Protects the right to petition the government.

2nd Amendment (1791):

Guarantees the people’s right to own and bear arms for their defense.

3rd Amendment (1791):

Citizens cannot be forced to quarter soldiers during times of peace.

4th Amendment (1791):

Citizens cannot be forced to subject themselves to seizure and search without a search warrant and probable cause.

5th Amendment (1791):

Prohibits abuse of governmental authority in legal procedures. Establishes rules for indictment by eminent domain and the grand jury. Guarantees the due process rights. Protects citizens from self-incrimination and double jeopardy.

6th Amendment (1791):

Guarantees fair and speedy jury trial and the rights to know the accusation, the accuser, and to find counsel and witnesses.

7th Amendment (1791):

Reserves individuals’ rights to jury trial depending on the civil case, and cases already examined by not be re-opened by another court.

8th Amendment (1791):

Forbids exorbitant bails and fines and punishment that is unusual or cruel.

9th Amendment (1791):

Reserves the rights of citizens which are not specifically mentioned by the U.S. Constitution.

10th Amendment (1791):

Reserves powers that are not given to the U.S. government under the Constitution, nor prohibited to a State of the U.S., to the people and the States.

11th Amendment (1795) through 27th Amendments (1992) were ratified after original “Bill of Rights”

11th Amendment (1795)

State sovereign immunity. States are protected from suits by citizens living in another state or foreigners that do not reside within the state borders. Ratified: Feb. 7, 1795

12th Amendment (1804):

Modifies and clarifies the procedure for electing vice-presidents and presidents.

13th Amendment (1865):

Except as punishment for criminal offense, forbids forced-slavery and involuntary servitude. (Emancipation Proclamation)

14th Amendment (1868):

Details Equal Protection Clause, Due Process Clause, Citizenship Clause, and clauses dealing with the Confederacy and its officials.

15th Amendment (1870):

Reserves citizens the suffrage* rights regardless of their race, color, or previous slave status.

16th Amendment (1913):

Reserves the U.S. government the right to tax income.

17th Amendment (1913):

Establishes popular voting as the process under which senators are elected.

18th Amendment (1919):

Denies the sale and consumption of alcohol.

19th Amendment (1920):

Reserves women’s suffrage* rights.

20th Amendment (1933):

Also known as the “lame duck amendment,” establishes date of term starts for Congress (January 3) & the President (January 20).

21st Amendment (1933):

Details the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment.  State laws over alcohol are to remain.

22nd Amendment (1951):

Limit the terms that an individual can be elected as president (at most two terms). Individuals who have served over two years of someone else’s term may not be elected more than once.

23rd Amendment (1961):

Reserves the right of citizens residing in the District of Columbia to vote for their own Electors for presidential elections.

24th Amendment (1964):

Citizens cannot be denied the suffrage* rights for not paying a poll tax or any other taxes.

25th Amendment (1967):

Establishes the procedures for a successor of a President.

26th Amendment (1971):

Reserves the right for citizens 18 and older to vote.

27th Amendment (1992):

Denies any laws that vary the salaries of Congress members until the beginning of the next terms of office for Representatives.

*suffragethe right to vote in electing public officials and adopting or rejecting proposed legislation.