Powers, rights outlined in Amendments X-XIV

By Harold B. Wolford - Veterans Corner

Editor’s note: This is part eight of an 11-part series on the Constitution of the United States. This article contains the text as written and explanations of articles and amendments. Spelling and grammar are as the original text was written. Explanations contained in this article are not based on the writer’s opinion; they are based on interpretations mainly from Congress and the Supreme Court. The explanations are contained in brackets [] to distinguish them from the actual text of the Constitution. Italicized text indicates words and passages of the Constitution that were changed or affected by amendments.

Amendment X (1791) – 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 was included in the Bill of Rights to further define the balance of power between the federal government and the states. The amendment states that the federal government has only those powers specifically granted by the Constitution. These powers include the power to declare war, to collect taxes, to regulate interstate business activities and others that are listed in the articles or in subsequent constitutional amendments. Any power not listed is, says the 10th Amendment, left to the states or the people. While there is no specific list of what these “reserved powers” may be, the Supreme Court has ruled that laws affecting family relations, commerce within a state’s own borders, and local law enforcement activities, are among those specifically reserved to the states or the people.]

Amendment XI (1795/1798) – 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 specifically prohibits federal courts from hearing cases in which a state is sued by an individual from another state or another country, thus extending to the states sovereign immunity protection from certain types of legal liability. Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 has been affected by this amendment, which also overturned the Supreme Court’s decision in Chisholm v. Georgia (1793).]

Amendment XII (1804) – 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 modifies the way the Electoral College chooses the President and Vice President. It stipulates that each elector must cast a distinct vote for President and Vice President, instead of two votes for president. It also suggests that the President and Vice President should not be from the same state. Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 is superseded by this amendment, which also extends the eligibility requirements to become President to the Vice President]

Amendment XIII (1865) – Section 1. 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.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

[The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime, and authorized Congress to enforce abolition. Though millions of slaves had been declared free by the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, their post Civil War status was unclear, as was the status of other millions. Congress intended the Thirteenth Amendment to be a proclamation of freedom for all slaves throughout the nation and to take the question of emancipation away from politics. This amendment rendered inoperative or moot several of the original parts of the constitution.]

Amendment XIV (1868) – Section 1. 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.

Section 2. 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.


By Harold B. Wolford

Veterans Corner

Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973.

Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973.