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12th Amendment

12th Amendment

Americans vote for  President every four years, but did you know that it is the Electoral College that actually elects the President?

The Electoral College is made up of representatives from each state and Washington DC and the biggest states will have more representatives, which we call “electors.”

These electors will give all of their votes to the Presidential candidate that wins the popular vote in each state.

The popular vote is to the total number of people that vote for each candidate. If this system seems strange to you, then you would be correct, the Electoral College is unique to the United States.

The history of the Electoral College dates back to colonial times before the thirteen colonies and earliest states became the United States. Back then, each state acted as its own country, printing money and having its own army.

Therefore, when these states did become one country, it made sense to have the states send representatives to a convention to choose the President, based on who the voters in each state liked.

After all, the President did not have as much power then as he does today.
Although many people want to get rid of the Electoral College, some people fear that small states will get overwhelmed by big states in popular voting. With the Electoral College, every state, even the tiny ones, get at least three representatives in the Electoral College.

This means that every state, no matter how small, at least has some say in picking our next President.

Now, we turn our attention to the 12th amendment. Did you know that our 2nd President, John Adams, had a Vice President from the other political party? That would never happen today, thanks to the 12th amendment.

Before the 12th amendment, every candidate running for President ran for President by himself, regardless of a political party. The electors would pick two of these candidates, one for President and one for Vice President.

The way those electors voted was up to the states, so you can see how the system was confusing. The electors did not have to pay attention to the popular vote.

Since communication in the 18th century was very slow, other electors from other states could not coordinate with each other to pick the Vice President with the second vote they were allowed.

Therefore, when the votes were tallied in the election of 1796, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson received the most electoral votes, and the man that was supposed to be Vice President, Thomas Pinckney, who was part of the same party as Adams came in third.

By the laws of the United States, those that won the top two electoral vote totals would be President and Vice President.

This result and another confusing election in 1800 led to the 12th amendment in 1804. The most important part of the 12th amendment is that instead of casting two votes for President, each elector must pick a President AND a Vice President on his or her ballot.

This ensures that the President will be paired with his running mate after the election. This has been the way we have operated the Electoral College since 1804.

World Trade Center Bombing

World Trade Center Bombing

The World Trade Center Bombing: The Background

On February 26th of 1993, a truck bomb was set-off underneath the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. This attack was done by terrorists. An act of terrorism is a systematic use of violence to instill fear in a population.

The World Trade Center bombing of 1993 involved the detonation of a 1,500 lb. nitrate-hydrogen-enhanced explosive. The device was intended to blow-up both buildings and ultimately kill thousands of people. Although this horrific plan did not come to fruition, the bombing killed seven people and injured over 1,000.

The World Trade Center Bombing was planned by a terrorist organization that was comprised of the following people: Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Salameh, NidalAyyad, Mahmud Abouhalima, AhmanAjaj, and Abdul Rahman Yasin.

Before the attack, these men laid out a series of demands. These demands were printed in New York’s papers. The men wanted the United States to stop being friendly with Israel. They also wanted the United States to get out of the Middle East. In these letters to the newspapers, the terrorists said that the World Trade Center bombing would be the first act of terrorism if the demands were not met.

Following the World Trade Center bombing, a number of federal agents and police officers raced to the scene. In the weeks following the World Trade Center Bombing, investigators found a piece of the bomb’s transport vehicle. A vehicle identification number was also found which led the authorities to investigate where the rental truck came from. The agents ultimately determined that the truck used to carry the bomb was rented by Mohamed Salameh.

The arrest of Salameh led the police to the apartment of Abdul Rahman Yasin. The dominoes then fell in the right place for the United States and its agents. In March of 1994, the other men responsible for the World Trade Center Bombing were arrested. Their charges included the following: conspiracy, explosive destruction of property, and interstate transportation of explosives. In November of 1997, the terrorists were formerly convicted for their role in the World Trade Center Bombing. Today, the men all sit in a tiny jail cell. They will be there for the rest of their lives.

13th Amendment

13th Amendment

Today we all celebrate Abraham Lincoln as the man that issued the Emancipation Proclamation and ended slavery in the United States. 

Did the Emancipation Proclamation actually end slavery for good?

The answer is no.  Lincoln, concerned that others might see his proclamation as a temporary order meant to hurt the rebel states push for the 13th amendment, which outlawed slavery everywhere in the United States.

Remember, that the emancipation proclamation only declared that slaves in the rebel states were free.  The 13th amendment made slavery and involuntary servitude illegal everywhere in the United States.

What is free will?

Free will is the right to do whatever you want without consequences. Our free will is limited by the law, which makes certain behaviors crimes, and society, which disapproves of certain behaviors. You may have the free will to have a messy room, but your parents can limit your free will and tell you to clean up that mess.

What forms of slavery are illegal thanks to the 13th amendment?

One cannot be forced to work to pay off a debt. This is called peonage. One cannot be threatened to work off debt either. If there is a debt between two people, the person the owes the other person has to volunteer or agree to work off the debt.

Let’s break down the important text of the 13th amendment!

Section 1

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,

(involuntary servitude is being forced to work against your free will, even if you are paid)

except as a punishment for crime…

(if you commit a crime, the United States can make you work as punishment for what you did)

… whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,

(you have to be guilty of the crime before you can be forced to work against your free will)

shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

(slavery cannot exist in any state in the United States or any territories or land that the US might have)

Section 2

Congress shall have power…

(this section gives Congress a responsibility against slavery…)

…to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

(…to pass laws against slavery and punish those that force people to work against their free will)

The 13th amendment was needed to put an end to slavery once and for all. Before the 13th amendment, there were many laws that protected slavery, so passing this 13th amendment instantly threw all of these old laws out. Twenty-seven out of thirty-six states ratified the amendment and the 13th amendment was adopted into the constitution on December 6, 1865.

After the 13th amendment, no one could force anyone, with physical force, fraud, or threatening legal action to work against their will. This did not stop people from scaring people into working for them, although this was outlawed in 2000. If anyone forces anyone else to work against their free will, then the United States government will prosecute them for violations of the 14th amendment.

Worcester v. Georgia

Worcester v. Georgia

Worcester v. Georgia: The Background

Worcester v. Georgia deals with Georgia state laws. These laws were passed following an agreement reached between the Cherokee tribe and the state government of Georgia. The laws instituted a prohibition of non-Indians from living in Indian territories. Only Non-Native Americans with special permission from the government were allowed to live on these lands.

The case begins when missionary Sam Worcester and his family (wife and 5 fellow missionaries) refused to move from a land that was labeled an “Indian territory.” In addition to refusing to move, the group refused to apply for the government license that would allow them to reside on the lands. Because of this refusal, the army entered the Native American lands and arrested Worcester along with the other 6 people. Following his arrest, Worcester appealed his charges and took his case to the Supreme Court.

Worcester v. Georgia: The Case Profile

Worcester v. Georgia began on February 20th of 1832. The case was filed by Worcester who claimed that his family’s forced removal was a violation of his constitutional rights. He believed the state of Georgia overstepped their boundaries, for they did not maintain jurisdiction to enforce the law within the Native land. Worcester v. Georgia was decided on March 3rd of 1832 by the United States Supreme Court.

Worcester v. Georgia: The Verdict

Chief Justice John Marshall (the judge who presided over the case) ruled in favor of Mr. Worcester in Worcester v. Georgia. Chief Justice Marshall believed that the state government of Georgia did not have the power to enforce the law within lands that were not within the jurisdiction of the state. The Supreme Court, through Marshall, also stated that the interactions between the Native American tribe and the state of Georgia must be considered and approached as international talks.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Worcester because they found the state to have violated his 14th Amendment rights. The 14th Amendment does not allow any government in the United States from blocking a citizen’s right to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness.” Furthermore, Worcester v.

Georgia also dealt with the due process clause which refers to the government’s obligation to maintain and respect these legal rights. The United States government is thus required to treat all American citizens in a respectful manner. Any attempt to overstep their boundaries will be deemed a violation of the constitution. The case of Worcester v. Georgia is an example of this.

14th Amendment

14th Amendment




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 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 be a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.


The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized 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 the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.


The 14th amendment is a very important amendment that defines what it means to be a US citizen and protects certain rights of the people. There are three important “clauses” in the 14th amendment, each of which is still important today. A clause is a sentence in any part of our constitution.

Citizenship Clause – the citizenship clause gives individuals born in the United States, but especially at that time, African Americans the right to citizenship. Before the 14th amendment, African Americans could not become citizens and this limited the rights of those that we’re able to escape slavery and become free. This clause allows all people born in the United States to be US citizens.

Although this right was established by the Civil Rights of 1866, this amendment made the law permanent as many feared that the law could be overturned and take away the citizenship of African Americans. Later on, the Supreme Court protected this right for the children of immigrants, and the right of Native Americans to become citizens also was protected later on.

Once you have American citizenship, it cannot be taken from you by Congress or other authorities, unless you lie to the government during the process to get US citizenship. Otherwise, everyone that becomes an American citizen stays an American citizen, unless they give it up themselves.

Due Process Clause – the due process clause protects the 1st amendment rights of the people and prevents those rights from being taken away by any government without “due process.” Due process is a trial by jury for all people accused of wrongdoing. Although you may think the 1st amendment already protects these rights, the 14th amendment especially enforces the Bill of Rights on the states, to make sure that they can never limit the rights of Americans without fairness. There were also a number of rights that are protected for those that are accused of a crime but have not been proven to do anything wrong yet.

Equal Protection Clause – This part of the fourteenth amendment states that there may be no discrimination against them by the law. The federal government enforces this protection on the states, ensuring that they do not. Remember that the Bill of Rights protects some rights for Americans. The equal protection clause extended this protection to the state governments. This clause of the 14th amendment would later be used to end discrimination and segregation in the South.

The 14th amendment was important in bring the Confederacy back into the United States after the Civil War. The US took responsibility for the pensions for a soldier that had fought in the war and refused to take on the Confederate debts, while also preventing former Confederate leaders from holding elected office or civil positions. Section 3 of the amendment allowed some of these leaders to regain their posts if 2/3 of the state legislatures voted to allow it. The 14th amendment also ensured that debts due to the emancipation of slaves were “null and void” (not allowed).

Third Amendment

Third Amendment

A Guide to the Third Amendment

The Third Amendment or Amendment III of the United States Constitution is the section of the Bill of Rights that prohibits soldiers from temporarily residing in private homes during peacetime without getting the permission and consent of the owner. It is only legal to do this when it is wartime it must still follow the law.

The third amendment was introduced into the United States Constitution as a part of the Bill of Rights on September 5, 1789, and was ratified or voted for by three-fourths of the states on December 15, 1791.

The Text of the Third Amendment

The text of the Third Amendment which is found in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights is the following:

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.

History of the Third Amendment

During the American Revolutionary War, American colonists were often asked to allow soldiers to temporarily live in their homes. Even before the Revolutionary war, the British government had passed two separate acts called the Quartering Acts. One of these acts was a part of the Intolerable Acts, which were thought to greatly violate the colonists’ privacy.

Because British soldiers did not have bases across the colonies, the soldiers needed somewhere to stay at night. After the Quartering Acts were passed, a soldier could demand to say in barns, uninhabited houses, or in places like stables, bars, and inns. British soldiers could also take the property of the American colonists during the Revolutionary War. The American colonists were very angry about this, which is why the Third Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights.

The Third Amendment was introduced by James Madison. The Third Amendment said that no soldier could demand a place to stay during wartime, although a soldier of the United States government could ask someone for a place to stay. During wartime, a soldier might be able to occupy a property for a short period of time. However, during peacetime, the lawful property owners’ rights were much more important than the military’s rights. Because of this property owners had the legal right to refuse to quarter a solider if they wanted to.

Americans did still quarter soldiers, even until the Civil War. Since then, the Third Amendment has been only been applied on very few occasions.

Although we do not quarter soldiers as much anymore, the Third Amendment is still very important because it looks at the idea of a person’s right to privacy. The Third Amendment works to protect the privacy of every American by giving everyone the right to stop soldiers from accessing their private property during peacetime.

Roper v. Simmons

Roper v. Simmons

Roper v. Simmons: The Background

The case of Roper v. Simmons took place in 2004. However, the situation that sparked the case began in 1993, when a minor (aged 17) named Christopher Simmons murdered a female victim named Shirley Crook. Simmons planned his murder in detail, he knew what he wanted to do and he did it.

In 1993, Christopher Simmons entered the home of Shirley Crook. Simmons robbed the woman, then tied her up and threw her off a nearby bridge. Simmons was arrested shortly after this brutal crime. Following a short trial, the court found Simmons to be guilty of all charges. The court sentenced Simmons to death. In response to these charges, Christopher Simmons appealed the execution due to his status as a minor.

The case of Roper v. Simmons deals with minor law. Christopher Simmons believed he did not deserve capital punishment because he was below the age of an adult. Minor law defines that individuals below the age of adulthood are not subject to a number of criminal punishments.

The Roper v. Simmons ruling was delivered because of a previous case, Stanford v. Kentucky. In this case, which took place in 1989, the court found that minors can be subject to the death sentence only if the charges warrant execution. The court found that capital punishment sentences for minors between the ages of 16 and 17 did not violate any rights awarded by the 8th Amendment.

Roper v. Simmons: The Case Profile

The Roper v. Simmons trial took place on January 26th of 2004. Christopher Simmons initiated the Supreme Court case because he felt that the initial sentence of death was in violation of his 8th Amendment Rights.

This Amendment to the United States Constitution provides protection against punishments that are considered to be cruel and unusual. Simmons’s belief was that he was below the age of an adult and therefore should not be subject to capital punishment. The Roper v. Simmons was decided on March 1st of 2005. The case of Roper v. Simmons in the United States Supreme Court featured the defendant Christopher Simmons and the plaintiff, Roper, who was the acting prosecutor for the state of Missouri.

Roper v. Simmons: The Verdict

The United States Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons ruled in favor of Simmons. The United States Supreme Court explained that sentencing a minor to death was indeed cruel and unusual punishment. Additionally, the United States Supreme Court overturned the ruling that was established in Sanford v. Kentucky.

15th Amendment

15th Amendment

The 15th amendment protects the rights of Americans to vote in elections to elect their leaders. Specifically, it confirms the right to vote and lists conditions that are illegal to deny another person the right to vote. Any American cannot be denied the right to vote, based on race, color, or being a former slave.

The 15th amendment was important in that it not only finally gave African Americans the right to vote but also allowed the most African Americans in history to be elected into public office. Once in office, they pursued laws that provided schools for all children and allowed people of different races to be married.

After the US Army was pulled out of the South, white Southerners reasserted their power and passed laws that prevented those whose grandfathers had not been citizens from voting as well as making people pay to vote. This prevented African Americans from voting meaningfully in the South until much later in the 20th century. Therefore, even though the 15th amendment protected the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities, it was not until much later that the federal government stepped in to enforce it.

Before the 15th amendment

Before the 15th amendment and the Civil War, African Americans, even those who were not slaves, could not vote. The right to vote would imply that these men were citizens, which was not acceptable to Americans at the time. The Supreme Court case of Dred Scott v. Sanford set the rule for African Americans not voting and this rule was in place until the 15th amendment.

Let us look at the text of the amendment

Section 1

The right of citizens of the United States…

(The 14th amendment grants citizenship to all born in the United States and this amendment grants them the right to…)

…to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State…

(the federal or any state government may never take away this right)

…on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

(all persons, regardless of their ethnicity, race or status as a former slave has the right to vote)

Section 2

The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article…

(The legislative branch, congress must enforce the 15th amendment)

…by appropriate legislation.

(by passing laws to protect the right to vote for the people mentioned in this amendment)

Problems with the 15th amendment

Many states were wary of the 15th amendment, mostly because they did not want Chinese and Irish immigrants to vote. In fact, California and Oregon would not ratify the amendment due to the large number of Chinese immigrants that lived there.

It was not until almost 90 years later that these states would ratify the 15th amendment. The 15th amendment passed, without the support of these states, in 1870 and these protections largely helped African Americans, as long as there were federal troops to protect them.

Barron v. Baltimore

Barron v. Baltimore

The Background: Barron V. Baltimore

Mr. John Barron was a resident of Baltimore, Maryland. He sued his home city because his business, which was located in Baltimore harbor, was damaged. The city of Baltimore passed an adjustment of water flow law which ended up cutting-off water to Mr. Barron’s property.

Because of the law, Mr. Barron’s boats were not able to properly dock in the harbor. The lack of water and the inability to dock resulted in his boats getting damaged. Barron sued Baltimore and was ultimately rewarded money to compensate for his damaged boats. However, the city appealed the ruling and brought the case to the United States Supreme Court.

The case of Barron V. Baltimore deals with eminent domain. This means that the government can repossess property owned by citizens in the event that the property taken is necessary for public use. The problem was, “public use” was not defined when this case was tried—Barron v. Baltimore took place in 1833!

The Case: Barron V. Baltimore

Mr. John Barron in Barron v. Baltimore said that the government’s use of eminent domain was a direct violation of the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 5th amendment states that the government must respect, maintain and uphold the legal rights of all American citizens and that the government must retain a person’s liberties and human rights.

Mr. Barron thought that is was unfair and illegal for the government to mess with his personal property. He thought that he should be repaid for the damages caused to his boats. The city of Baltimore thought that they were in their rights to restrict water supply. They thought that they were allowed to do this because it ultimately helped out the community.

The Verdict: Barron V. Baltimore

The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Baltimore, stating that the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution was limited and only should be followed by the Federal government. The 5th Amendment does not state that it must be followed by all state and city governments in the United States. Because of the ruling in Barron V. Baltimore, the United States Supreme Court established that a individual citizen’s property was not susceptible to the regulation of the 5th Amendment.

Miller v. California

Miller v. California

Miller v. California: The Background

The case of Miller v. California involved a man named Marvin Miller, who was a part owner of a business that was considered to be lewd and sexual in nature. In the year of 1972, Mr. Marvin Miller started an advertising campaign where he distributed a ton of letters to citizens of California.

The majority of these individuals never requested this information and Mr. Miller ran into legal trouble when a mother and her child received one of Miller’s crude advertisements. The mother and child were highly offended by Mr. Miller’s advertisement. Shortly after receiving the publication, the mother filed a complaint to the California police department.

After reviewing the materials, the California police department was found guilty of distributing this information which was considered to be unsuitable for the general population. In response to the charges, Marvin Miller appealed the arrest and the fact that his material was considered “obscene.” In Miller v. California, Marvin Miller claimed that the arrest was a violation of his 1st Amendment Rights, which awards him the right to speak and express himself freely.

Miller v. California: The Case Profile

The case of Miller v. California took place on January 19th of 1972. The case was heard in the United States Supreme Court. The case was filed by Marvin Miller, because he claimed that he was unlawfully censored and arrested due to the fact that his materials were considered obscene by the California police department. The case of Miller v. California was decided on June 21st of 1973.

Miller v. California: The Verdict

The United States Supreme Court in Miller v. California ruled in favor of the state of California. The court found Marvin Miller guilty of the misdemeanor because the material was deemed unsuitable for the general population. The Supreme Court found that the material Miller was handing out and distributing to the public was not meant for children to see. Therefore, Miller’s 1st Amendment rights were trumped in this particular matter.

The 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution allows citizens of the United States to engage in free speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of religion, and the right to assemble. These freedoms, however, are not awarded to an American citizen if the individual puts the general population in any sort of harm with their speech, assembly, press or religion.

The verdict of Miller v. California created the ‘Miller Test.’ This test is used to define what is considered obscene or unsuitable for the general public. The Miller Test will take a publication or any piece of art or communication and evaluate whether or not it is suitable for the public. It will look at how dirty it is or how it may offend people and decide whether or not it is protected by First Amendment Rights.