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16th Amendment

16th Amendment

A tax is money that is paid to the government and will be added when buying or owning something valuable. The 16th amendment is an important amendment that allows the federal (United States) government to levy (collect) an income tax from all Americans.

Income tax allows for the federal government to keep an army, build roads and bridges, enforce laws, and carry out other important duties.

The federal government realized in 1913 that in order for it to collect taxes effectively, and not have to share that tax money with the states, federal income tax was necessary. Other taxes, such as taxes on houses or other property are considered “direct” taxes by the Constitution and would have to be divided back among the states.

Let us look at the 16th amendment

The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes…

(Congress is allowed to collect some of the money earned by people working in the United States)

from whatever source derived…

(it doesn’t matter where the money is earned, as long as it is “income”)

without apportionment among the several States…

(there is no need to share the revenue with the states)

and without regard to any census or enumeration.

(the census, a count of all the people that live in the United States that happens every ten years, can’t be used as a basis for distributing taxes on people)

How did income tax start?

There was an income tax before the 16th amendment, and it was in effect during the Civil War. Anyone making more than $800 would be charged a tax of 3% and then eventually 3-5% on income over $600. This was actually a lot of money during the Civil War. This income tax ended in 1866.

The desire of Americans to pass an income tax on the rich was strong in 1909 when President William Taft proposed 2% of big businesses known as corporations. Following this lead, Congress wrote the 16th amendment and after agreeing on the rules of the amendment about income tax, sent to the states to be voted on. Although many northern states did not like the idea of an income tax in the 16th amendment, western states strongly supported it.

For the amendment to become part of the constitution, 36 states needed to ratify (approve) it. The 36th state to approve the 16th amendment was Delaware in 1931, almost four years after the first state, Alabama, ratified the 16th amendment in 1909.

The 16th amendment became part of the constitution after it was ratified and since then the federal government has collected taxes from Americans every year on their income (money earned). Income tax is charged on wages (money) earned from working a job, earnings from a business, dividends (money from stocks and investing), and rental property (charging someone to live in a building you own). The 16th amendment is effective here in that it specifically allows all income to be taxed.

Boumediene v. Bush

Boumediene v. Bush

Boumediene V. Bush: The Background

The case of Boumediene v. Bush dealt with something called habeas corpus. The case revolves around a man named Lakhdar Boumediene who was a naturalized citizen of Bosnia. Mr. Boumediene was placed in military prison by the United States Government at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Habeas corpus is a legal action which states that a prisoner in jail can be released if there is little evidence that says he should have been put in jail in the first place. Habeas corpus can be sought by the prisoner him/herself or by another body who comes to the prisoner’s aid.

So, if a prisoner enacts a habeas corpus, he or she will be taken out of jail and placed in a court. The courts will then review and determine whether the government or organization that put him in hail has the authority to do so. If the custodian does not have the power to detain the prisoner, then the prisoner will be released.

Guantanamo Bay is a scary military prison and is not formally a part of the United States of America. It is, however, rented by the United States from Cuba. The country of Cuba maintains control over the territory, while the United States simply exercises jurisdictional power over the prison.

The Trial: Boumediene V. Bush

On June 12th of 2008, Supreme Court Associate Justice Kennedy ruled for the 5-4 majority, stating that the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay had a right to habeas corpus according to the United States Constitution.

The Supreme Court decided that the United States maintained its jurisdiction and control over the camp, while Cuba retained ultimate sovereignty over it. This ruling basically says that the prisoners of the base are enemy combatants and are thus entitled to habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus is protected in Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution. The ruling in Boumediene v. Bush reversed the lower court’s decision which said that constitutional rights should not be extended to prisoners of Guantanamo Bay.

The Verdict: Boumediene V. Bush

The verdict of Boumediene v. Bush stated that all prisoners of Guantanamo Bay, even those who were suspected of terrorism are allowed to question the reasoning behind their imprisonment. This ruling was administered because the Supreme Court stated the prison to within the United States Court System.

Miranda v. Arizona

Miranda v. Arizona

Miranda v. Arizona: The Background

The case of Miranda v. Arizona is a famous and important legal case. The decision of Miranda v. Arizona led to the creation of something very important that is practiced to this day.

The case of Miranda v. Arizona took place in the state of Arizona when a young man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested after being accused of raping a female in 1963. When Ernesto Miranda was apprehended he was given a piece of paper that asked for his formal confession. Miranda refused to sign the paper.

After this refusal, Miranda was interrogated by the police for over 2 hours. During the interrogation, Miranda confessed to the crime. However, Miranda’s legal aids (his lawyers and attorneys) argued that the arresting officers did not make the man aware of his rights at the time he was arrested.

In addition to this, the lawyers argued that the police neglected to advise Miranda of his right to remain silent so that he would not incriminate himself. The right to remain silent means that during the time of arrest the individual being arrested can keep quiet. This option allows the individual to avoid getting himself in trouble.

After he was charged with rape, Ernesto Miranda appealed the sentence and brought his case to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court accepted the case to review whether the police officers did not follow protocol and refused to inform the arrested man of his rights.

The foundation of the Miranda v. Arizona case is found in the Constitution. The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution requires suspects of crimes to be informed of their rights during an arrest, including the right to remain silent. In addition, the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that an individual be informed of their right to a fair hearing after they are arrested.

Miranda v. Arizona: The Case Profile

The case of Miranda v. Arizona took place in 1966 before the United States Supreme Court. During the case of Miranda v. Arizona, Ernesto Miranda was accused of rape and the state of Arizona was accused of violating Miranda’s constitutional rights. The case of Miranda v. Arizona was decided on June 13th of 1966.

Miranda v. Arizona: The Verdict

Chief Justice Earl Warren found in the case of Miranda v. Arizona that both Miranda’s 5th and 6th Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested. That being said, additional evidence that was placed on Ernesto Miranda affirmed his initial rape conviction.

Miranda ended up spending 11 years in prison; however, the case of Miranda v. Arizona made history. The Miranda rights are now included in the 5th Amendment, stating that all individuals retain the right to remain silent to avoid getting themselves in trouble at the time of arrest. Furthermore, the Miranda rights require that people arrested are made aware of all their rights, including their right to hire a lawyer or legal specialist.

17th Amendment

17th Amendment

Just like the President and our mayors and governors, we elect our senators to represent us in the United States Senate. The Senate is one of two houses (groups) in the US Congress.

There are two Senators for every state, for a total of 100. This system is to make sure that every state has an equal amount of representatives in this important law-making body.

Did you know that Americans were originally not allowed to vote for Senators? Believe it or not, the legislature of every state used to elect the state’s senators and the people would elect the Congressmen that serve in the House of Representatives. If you think this sounds unfair, many Americans in 1912 thought so too.

The 17th amendment provides for regular voters to elect their Senators. The reason for this is simple when we look at the process to become a Senator in 1912.The problem with letting representatives choose representatives is corruption. Corruption is breaking the law to get favors or better treatment for yourself or someone else.

Many of the Senators that were “elected” by the state legislatures had struck corrupt bargains with the legislature and many people were angry over the lack of choice they had. By the time the 17th amendment was proposed, almost thirty states were in favor of directly electing senators. The 17th amendment was proposed in 1912 and was completely ratified by 1913.

Text of the 17th amendment

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years…

(every state will have two Senators, and they will serve six-year terms in Congress.)

…and each Senator shall have one vote.

(one vote per senator, which now means 100 votes in total for our Senate)

The electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

(any person that can vote in state elections may vote for the senator of that state)

There is also this important paragraph in the 17 amendments:

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate,

(if a senator leaves office)

the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies

(the governor may appoint someone to fill that opening)

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.

(as long as the state allows the governor to do this)

Critics of the 17th amendment

Not everyone is in favor of the 17th amendment. States complain that their power to influence the federal government was taken away by the federal government. They could no longer have their interests represented in the legislature, as the Senators became disconnected from their state’s government, an arrangement that many states did not like. The popularity of the 17th amendment with the people was important though and that helped the 17th amendment survive all the way to today.

Bowers v. Hardwick

Bowers v. Hardwick

Bowers V. Hardwick: The Background

The case of Bowers v. Hardwick is very interesting. It all started when Mr. Hardwick was returning home after a night of drinking at a nearby bar. Mr. Hardwick was ultimately arrested for engaging in consensual love with another adult male.

When arrested, the Georgia police officers claimed he had violated restrictions within the state’s Sodomy Law.

The statutes within the state’s Sodomy Law stated that any sexual activity undertaken between two individuals of the same SEX. Men were not allowed to be sexual with other men and women were not allowed to be sexual with other women in the state.

Mr. Hardwick appealed his arrest, claiming that the law violates his constitutional rights.

Bowers V. Hardwick: The Trial

Mr. Hardwick was accused of illegally showing love for an individual of the same sex. Mr. Hardwick rejected these charges by claiming the law violated the Equality Clause, represented in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The date of Bowers—who was the Georgia State prosecutor—v. Hardwick took place on March 31st of 1986.

Hardwick was initially arrested and sentenced to jail for being intimate with another male. The case was upheld by the state courts and Mr. Hardwick was sent to jail. Angered by this court ruling, Mr. Hardwick appealed the decision and took his claim to the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Hardwick felt violated. The United States Constitution stated that all men were created equal; Mr. Hardwick felt that he should not be punished for being himself.

Bowers v. Hardwick: the Verdict

The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Georgia, stating that the 14th Amendment should be applied to activities and events that did not exist in direct contrast to the traditional values expressed. The Supreme Court also stated that statutes addressing sodomy did not exist within the 14th Amendment.

The 14th Amendment prohibits the United States government from infringing on the rights for a citizen of the United States to pursue “life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

McCulloch v. Maryland

McCulloch v. Maryland

McCulloch v. Maryland: The Background

The case of McCulloch v. Maryland was a groundbreaking Federal court case that dealt with the formation of a federal bank and a series of individual banks.

The case of McCulloch v. Maryland started through a series of important events that involved a number of laws. The following laws will allow you to understand what was going on with the McCulloch v. Maryland case.

In 1816, the United States Congress passed an Act that allowed Federal Banks to be located and to operate within individual states in the U.S. Two years later, in 1816, the state of Maryland passed an Act that placed all banks and financial institutions that operated in the state under the taxation model of Maryland.

This law thus made banks and other financial institutions in the state, including all federal banks, to pay Maryland state tax. A year after the passing of this law, McCulloch v. Maryland was heard.

McCulloch v. Maryland: The Case Profile

The case of McCulloch v. Maryland was heard in 1819. The case was tried in the Supreme Court of the United States. Andrew McCulloch was the defendant in McCulloch v. Maryland. McCulloch was the appointed manager of the Federal Bank located in Baltimore, Maryland. McCulloch refused to pay the state tax imposed by Maryland; he believed that federal banks were not subject to state taxation.

In McCulloch v. Maryland, the state was the plaintiff. The state of Maryland believed that the federal bank should pay state taxes because they were operating on their land and using their resources.

McCulloch v. Maryland: The Verdict

The United States Supreme Court in McCulloch v. Maryland ruled in favor of the defendant, Andrew McCulloch. The United States Supreme Court in McCulloch v. Maryland ruled in favor of the defendant because the Necessary and Proper Clause of the United States Constitution stated that the Federal Government was permitted to operate banks within individual states without paying taxes.

The decision in McCulloch v. Maryland created a precedent; it led to a number of future decisions involving taxation issues and the federal government.

James Wilson

James Wilson

Founding Father: James Wilson

James Wilson was born on September the 14th, 1742 in Scotland. Here, he went to the Universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Edinburgh.

James Wilson never finished his studies or got his degree, since in 1765 he sailed for the New World.

With the help of some letters of introduction, James Wilson became a tutor for a short time at the College of Philadelphia. Here, he received an honorary degree soon after thereafter.

In November 1767, James Wilson was admitted to the bar, meaning he could practice law. James Wilson set up a practice in Pennsylvania in 1768. His practice was very successful, mostly because he handled almost half of the cases that were charged in the country court.

In 1774 James Wilson went to a provincial meeting, as the representative of Carlisle, where he was elected as a member of the Committee of Correspondence. He wrote an article called “Considerations on the Nature & Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament.”

In this pamphlet, he said that the British Parliament had no right to pass laws for the American colonies. The pamphlet was published, and later it found its way all the way to Continental Congress, where it was read widely and commented on.

In 1775 James Wilson became a member of the Continental Congress, alongside many radical members who demanded separation from the British government. James Wilson’s speeches were often commented on favorably by members of Congress. However, he was in a bind.

Pennsylvania had mixed feelings regarding this issue of separation from the British government, and James Wilson would not vote against the will of his constituents. Some members thought that it was very hypocritical of James Wilson to argue so strongly for Independence, only just to vote against it.

With the support of three members who understood his position, James Wilson managed to delay the vote for three weeks, so that he could talk it over with people back in Philadelphia. When the vote happened, James Wilson was able to affirm his state’s desire for Independence.

After the Declaration of Independence, James Wilson’s attention went back to his state. In Pennsylvania, a new constitution was being proposed. James Wilson was strongly against it.

Because of this, he was recalled for two weeks in 1777 from Congress, but no one would replace him, so he was put back until the end of his term. After his term finished, James did not go back home.

James Wilson stayed in Annapolis for the winter, and then settled back in Philadelphia. He also resumed some parts of his law practice, except now he only consulted to corporations.

James Wilson was a leader in the Democratic-republican party. Unfortunately, he went back to his activities in speculation, which resulted in a large amount of debt. In 1779, he was appointed to serve as its US advocate general to France for maritime and commercial enterprises.

Wilson was also elected to Congress in 1782. In 1784, he was appointed to attend the Constitutional Convention. After ratification of the new Constitution, Wilson looked for an appointment to the Federal government, and was made an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by Washington in 1789.

The rest of his life was not very good. Wilson’s wife had passed away in 1786. He had destroyed his finances and spent time in a debtor’s prison. By 1798, James Wilson’s health was getting worse and worse. He often complained of mental fatigue and not being able to work. He died on August 28 of the same year while traveling to North Carolina to visit a friend.

Fun Facts About James Wilson

• When we went to debtor’s prison, he was still a Justice in the Supreme Court.

• James Wilson was attacked by a mob of working class people during the Revolution because he was suspected of hoarding goods, like wheat, to make the prices rise. This event is now called “Fort Wilson Riot.”

18th Amendment

18th Amendment

The 18th amendment is the only amendment to be repealed from the constitution. This unpopular amendment banned the sale and drinking of alcohol in the United States. This amendment took effect in 1919 and was a huge failure.

Not only did regular people find other ways to drink alcohol, but criminals also made a lot of money selling alcohol to those people. The 21st amendment repeals the 18th amendment in 1933, and today we call the period that the 18th Amendment was law Prohibition.

The 18th amendment was not always unpopular. In fact, some states had already banned alcohol before the 18th amendment. Before the 18th amendment became law, religious activists, famously women but also some men, blame alcohol for violence and other problems that were affecting American families.

They would take axes and other weapons and attack saloons or other places that stored alcohol, destroying all of it. The motivation for the 18th amendment was inspired by these activists and their desire to make a better society by outlawing alcohol. We now know that the 18th amendment failed and in fact, made things worse.

Let’s explain the text of the 18th amendment.

Section 1

After one year from the ratification of this article…

(the 18th amendment would go into effect one year after the states ok’d it)

…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…

(selling, making, or bring liquor into the country or United States territory, will be made illegal)

Section 2

The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

(Congress can pass any laws it needs to make sure that this law is enforced and alcohol is not consumed illegally)

Section 3

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.

(this amendment needs to be ratified by ¾ of the states within seven years of it will become invalid)

What were the effects of the 18th amendment?

Mississippi was the first state to accept the amendment, in 1918 and New Jersey was the last, in 1922, at number 46. By then the majority had already been reached. After the 18th amendment, Congress passed the Volstead Act, which set the date for the prohibition on January 17, 1920.

This act also defined strict limits on beverages containing alcohol, ensuring that the content would be no more than .5%. The Volstead Act contained the provisions to enforce the 18th amendment on Americans. This Act did allow for some alcohol to be kept as “medicine” and for “research,” and this was often exploited.

The 18th amendment gave rise to the gangsters of the 1920s that made a huge profit selling illegal alcohol. Such was this disaster that the government would finally agree to get rid of Prohibition and the 18th amendment ten years later.

Brandenburg v. Ohio

Brandenburg v. Ohio

Brandenburg V. Ohio: The Background

Clarence Brandenburg was a leading member of the Ku Klux Klan (a very mean-spirited group of radicals). His group was located in the woods of Cincinnati. When Brandenburg’s Klan formed a rally, the man contacted a local news station in Cincinnati and invited the organization to cover the Klan’s rally.

The news station arrived at the rally and began filming the events. This filming resulted in the broadcast of a very hateful demonstration, filled with hate-speech and racist actions. This filming was broadcasted live to residents of the Ohio city. In reaction to the hateful speech, a number of residents called the news station and complained about the broadcast.

Clarence Brandenburg was arrested for forming and participating in the rally and for asking a news station to film the hateful meeting. Brandenburg broke the state’s law which prohibited the publication of any hateful or violent showing. Mr. Brandenburg appealed the charges against him by claiming his action were not criminal in nature.

The aspect of criminal intent was the main factor in this case. Did Brandenburg intend to commit a crime? Was he in violation of his free speech rights? Is it illegal to broadcast hateful and racist speech to American homes via the television?

Brandenburg v. Ohio: The Trial

The Brandenburg v. Ohio trial took place on February 27th of 1967. Clarence Brandenburg was accused of broadcasting a hateful showing. Brandenburg appealed these charges by claiming he was protected under his 1st Amendment Rights. He claimed his rights as an American citizen were violated when he was arrested and that he was unjustly punished for non-violent and non-criminal expressions.

Brandenburg V. Ohio: The Verdict

The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Clarence Brandenburg stating Ohio laws that prohibited the delivery of expression and speech directly violated the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution. Within this ruling, the United States Supreme Court was sure to distinguish between violent acts and hateful speech that implied violence.

Although the Ku Klux Klan’s rally was hateful, the sentiments expressed were not deemed by the United States Supreme Court to be of an immediate danger to those around the rally.

The 1st Amendment was the reason why Brandenburg v. Ohio favored Brandenburg. The 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution ensures that every citizen of the U.S. is granted the freedom to express themselves so long as it does not pose a threat on anyone else. The speech or expression also cannot be delivered with a threat of violence.

William Paterson

William Paterson

Founding Father: William Paterson

William Paterson was born in County Antrim, Ireland, on December 14, 1745. When he was almost 2 years old, his family moved from Ireland to America. While his father traveled around the country, selling tin products, William Paterson’s family lived in New London, other areas of Connecticut, and Trenton, New Jersey.

In 1750, William Paterson settled in Princeton, NJ. There, William Paterson became a manufacturer of tin goods and a merchant. William Paterson’s wealth allowed him to go to local private schools and then the College of New Jersey. He received his Bachelor of Arts in 1763 and a Master of Arts 3 years later.

Afterward, Paterson studied law under Richard Stockton, who signed the Declaration of Independence, in the city of Princeton. Soon after, William Paterson began practicing law at New Bromley, in Hunterdon County. Afterward, William Paterson moved to South Branch, which was in Somerset County, and then relocated near New Brunswick at Raritan estate in 1779.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, William Paterson joined the New Jersey patriots’ vanguard. He also served in the provincial congress between 1775 and 1776, the constitutional convention in 1776, the legislative council from 1776 to 1777, and the council of safety in 1777. During the last year, William Paterson also held a militia commission.

Between 1776 and 1783, William Paterson was attorney general of New Jersey, a job that took up so much time that he could not accept his election in 1780 to the Continental Congress. Meantime, the previous year, William Paterson had married Cornelia Bell, and he had three children with her before her death in 1783. Two years later, William Paterson got remarried to Euphemia White.

From 1783, when William Paterson moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, until 1787, he devoted a lot of his time and energy in law and did not enter the public spotlight. Afterward, he was chosen to be the representative of New Jersey at the Constitutional Convention.

He only acted as New Jersey’s representative until late July of that year. Until then, William Paterson took careful notes of all the proceedings. More importantly, William Paterson was very prominent because of his support and co-authorship of the New Jersey Plan, sometimes called the Paterson Plan, which stated the small states’ rights against the large. William Paterson only returned to the Constitutional Convention to sign the Constitution. After supporting the ratification of the Constitution in New Jersey, William Paterson started his career in the new American government.

In 1789, William Paterson was elected to the United States Senate between 1789 and 1790, where he played an important role in writing the Judiciary Act of 1789. William Paterson’s next position after being a judge was the governor of his New Jersey from 1790 to 1793. Here, he started writing what later became the volume called the Laws of the State of New Jersey in 1800. He also started to revise the practices and rules of the common law courts and chancery.

Between 1793 and 1806, William Paterson served the United States Supreme Court as an Associate Justice. At that time, federal judges had to ride the circuit or travel around. Here William Paterson traveled with the full court to preside over many major trials.

In September 1806, 60-year-old Paterson began traveling to Ballston Spa, New York for a cure to his sickness, but he died before he could get there at his daughter’s home in Albany, New York. William Paterson was buried in the nearby Van Rensselaer family vault, but his body was later moved to the Albany Rural Cemetery, in Menands, New York.

Fun Facts about William Paterson

• Both William Paterson University and the town of Paterson, New Jersey are both named after William Paterson.
• He is currently buried in the same cemetery as President Chester A. Arthur.