The basis of our nation's law and government, the Constitution is America's most important political and social document. This convenient and inexpensive reference contains not only the Constitution's main text and amendments but also a wealth of background information.
Supplements include selected "Federalist Papers," consisting of memoranda by James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution," as well as speeches by John Jay and Patrick Henry and remarks by Alexander Hamilton. Highlights from the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia include spirited debates on suffrage, executive power, slavery, and other subjects vital to the founding of a nation. In addition, correspondence between the Founding Fathers — including letters from Madison to George Washington and from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson — offers a glimpse at the personalities behind the historic events. Includes 2 selections from the Common Core State Standards Initiative: The United States Bill of Rights and The Preamble and First Amendment to the Unites States Constitution.
About the Author
Bob Blaisdell is professor of English at the City University of New York's Kingsborough Community College and the editor of twenty-two Dover literature and poetry collections.
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The United States Constitution
The Full Text with Supplementary Materials
By Bob Blaisdell
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION
("... the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual ...")
MARCH 1, 1781
Hammered out in Philadelphia in July of 1776, the Articles of Confederation were debated for more than a year before they were agreed to by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777. The document was then sent to the state legislatures for approval; it required all thirteen states' approval for ratification, which came finally in 1781 when Maryland signed on. The Revolutionary War ended in 1783, and in the next few years, the Congress of the Confederation's weaknesses (see James Madison's "The Vices of the Political System of the United States" below) led to delegates from Virginia calling for a Federal Convention that would create a more effective and more centralized government.
To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting.
Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
The Stile of this Confederacy shall be "The United States of America."
Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.
The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.
The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, to any other State, of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State, on the property of the United States, or either of them.
If any person guilty of, or charged with, treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall, upon demand of the Governor or executive power of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offense.
Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other State.
For the most convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislatures of each State shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each State to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead for the remainder of the year.
No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit, receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.
Each State shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the States, and while they act as members of the committee of the States.
In determining questions in the United States in Congress assembled, each State shall have one vote.
Freedom of speech and debate in Congress shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Congress, and the members of Congress shall be protected in their persons from arrests or imprisonments, during the time of their going to and from, and attendance on Congress, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.
No State, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, shall send any embassy to, or receive any embassy from, or enter into any conference, agreement, alliance or treaty with any King, Prince or State; nor shall any person holding any office of profit or trust under the United States, or any of them, accept any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any King, Prince or foreign State; nor shall the United States in Congress assembled, or any of them, grant any title of nobility.
No two or more States shall enter into any treaty, confederation or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue.
No State shall lay any imposts or duties, which may interfere with any stipulations in treaties, entered into by the United States in Congress assembled, with any King, Prince or State, in pursuance of any treaties already proposed by Congress, to the courts of France and Spain.
No vessel of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any State, except such number only, as shall be deemed necessary by the United States in Congress assembled, for the defense of such State, or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any State in time of peace, except such number only, as in the judgment of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defense of such State; but every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of filed pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.
No State shall engage in any war without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, unless such State be actually invaded by enemies, or shall have received certain advice of a resolution being formed by some nation of Indians to invade such State, and the danger is so imminent as not to admit of a delay till the United States in Congress assembled can be consulted; nor shall any State grant commissions to any ships or vessels of war, nor letters of marque or reprisal, except it be after a declaration of war by the United States in Congress assembled, and then only against the Kingdom or State and the subjects thereof, against which war has been so declared, and under such regulations as shall be established by the United States in Congress assembled, unless such State be infested by pirates, in which case vessels of war may be fitted out for that occasion, and kept so long as the danger shall continue, or until the United States in Congress assembled shall determine otherwise.
When land forces are raised by any State for the common defense, all officers of or under the rank of colonel, shall be appointed by the legislature of each State respectively, by whom such forces shall be raised, or in such manner as such State shall direct, and all vacancies shall be filled up by the State which first made the appointment.
All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States in proportion to the value of all land within each State, granted or surveyed for any person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint.
The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several States within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled.
The United States in Congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article — of sending and receiving ambassadors — entering into treaties and alliances, provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made whereby the legislative power of the respective States shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners, as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever — of establishing rules for deciding in all cases, what captures on land or water shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated — of granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peace — appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of captures, provided that no member of Congress shall be appointed a judge of any of the said courts.
The United States in Congress assembled shall also be the last resort on appeal in all disputes and differences now subsisting or that hereafter may arise between two or more States concerning boundary, jurisdiction or any other causes whatever; which authority shall always be exercised in the manner following. Whenever the legislative or executive authority or lawful agent of any State in controversy with another shall present a petition to Congress stating the matter in question and praying for a hearing, notice thereof shall be given by order of Congress to the legislative or executive authority of the other State in controversy, and a day assigned for the appearance of the parties by their lawful agents, who shall then be directed to appoint by joint consent, commissioners or judges to constitute a court for hearing and determining the matter in question: but if they cannot agree, Congress shall name three persons out of each of the United States, and from the list of such persons each party shall alternately strike out one, the petitioners beginning, until the number shall be reduced to thirteen; and from that number not less than seven, nor more than nine names as Congress shall direct, shall in the presence of Congress be drawn out by lot, and the persons whose names shall be so drawn or any five of them, shall be commissioners or judges, to hear and finally determine the controversy, so always as a major part of the judges who shall hear the cause shall agree in the determination: and if either party shall neglect to attend at the day appointed, without showing reasons, which Congress shall judge sufficient, or being present shall refuse to strike, the Congress shall proceed to nominate three persons out of each State, and the secretary of Congress shall strike in behalf of such party absent or refusing; and the judgement and sentence of the court to be appointed, in the manner before prescribed, shall be final and conclusive; and if any of the parties shall refuse to submit to the authority of such court, or to appear or defend their claim or cause, the court shall nevertheless proceed to pronounce sentence, or judgement, which shall in like manner be final and decisive, the judgement or sentence and other proceedings being in either case transmitted to Congress, and lodged among the acts of Congress for the security of the parties concerned: provided that every commissioner, before he sits in judgement, shall take an oath to be administered by one of the judges of the supreme or superior court of the State, where the cause shall be tried, "well and truly to hear and determine the matter in question, according to the best of his judgement, without favor, affection or hope of reward": provided also, that no State shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States.
All controversies concerning the private right of soil claimed under different grants of two or more States, whose jurisdictions as they may respect such lands, and the States which passed such grants are adjusted, the said grants or either of them being at the same time claimed to have originated antecedent to such settlement of jurisdiction, shall on the petition of either party to the Congress of the United States, be finally determined as near as may be in the same manner as is before prescribed for deciding disputes respecting territorial jurisdiction between different States.
The United States in Congress assembled shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective States — fixing the standards of weights and measures throughout the United States — regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the States, provided that the legislative right of any State within its own limits be not infringed or violated — establishing or regulating post offices from one State to another, throughout all the United States, and exacting such postage on the papers passing through the same as may be requisite to defray the expenses of the said office — appointing all officers of the land forces, in the service of the United States, excepting regimental officers — appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the United States — making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations.
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Table of Contents
THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION,
THE PROCEEDINGS AND THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONERS TO REMEDY DEFECTS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT,
LETTER FROM GEORGE WASHINGTON TO JAMES MADISON,
MEMORANDA BY JAMES MADISON: "VICES OF THE POLITICAL SYSTEM OF THE UNITED STATES",
RULES TO BE OBSERVED AS THE STANDING ORDERS OF THE CONVENTION,
THE "VIRGINIA PLAN," RESOLUTIONS OFFERED BY EDMUND RANDOLPH TO THE FEDERAL CONVENTION,
DEBATE IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION ON SUFFRAGE: ELBRIDGE GERRY, GEORGE MASON, JAMES WILSON, JAMES MADISON, EDMUND RANDOLPH, AND OTHERS,
DEBATE IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION ON EXECUTIVE POWER: CHARLES PINCKNEY, JAMES WILSON, JAMES MADISON, AND OTHERS,
DEBATE IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION ON SMALL STATES VERSUS THE LARGE STATES: SPEECH BY GUNNING BEDFORD, JR., OF DELAWARE,
DEBATE IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION ON THE SLAVE TRADE: LUTHER MARTIN, JOHN RUTLEDGE, GEORGE MASON, CHARLES PINCKNEY, AND OTHERS,
DEBATE ON AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION IN THE FEDERAL CONVENTION: ELBRIDGE GERRY, ALEXANDER HAMILTON, JAMES MADISON, EDMUND RANDOLPH, AND OTHERS,
ADDRESS TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION BY BENJAMIN FRANKLIN,
LETTER OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION, GEORGE WASHINGTON, TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS, TRANSMITTING THE CONSTITUTION,
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
NOTES: OBJECTIONS TO THE CONSTITUTION BY GEORGE MASON OF VIRGINIA,
ARTICLE, CENTINEL NO. 1, "TO THE FREEMEN OF PENNSYLVANIA," BY SAMUEL BRYAN,
ARTICLE, THE FEDERALIST, NO. 10: "THE UNION AS A SAFEGUARD AGAINST DOMESTIC FACTION AND INSURRECTION," BY JAMES MADISON,
LETTER BY JOHN ADAMS TO THOMAS JEFFERSON,
LETTER BY THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JAMES MADISON,
DEBATE IN THE MASSACHUSETTS RATIFYING CONVENTION: AMOS SINGLETARY AND JONATHAN B. SMITH,
DEBATE IN THE MASSACHUSETTS RATIFYING CONVENTION: SPEECH BY NATHANIEL BARRELL,
ARTICLE, THE FEDERALIST, NO. 51, "THE STRUCTURE OF THE GOVERNMENT MUST FURNISH THE PROPER CHECKS AND BALANCES BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT DEPARTMENTS," BY JAMES MADISON,
ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK BY JOHN JAY, "A CITIZEN OF NEW YORK",
ARTICLE, THE FEDERALIST, NO. 85, "CONCLUDING REMARKS," BY ALEXANDER HAMILTON,
ON "ALTERING OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT": SPEECH BY PATRICK HENRY OF VIRGINIA,
DEBATE ON THE ABSENCE OF A BILL OF RIGHTS: JAMES MADISON AND PATRICK HENRY,
THE BILL OF RIGHTS,