What Amendments Have Been Made To The U.S. Constitution?

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As of the year 2000, there were twenty-seven amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The following list gives brief summaries and the year each amendment became part of the Constitution.

  • First Amendment through the Tenth Amendment (1791): Comprise the Bill of Rights.
  • Eleventh Amendment (1798): Declares that U.S. federal courts cannot try any case brought against a state by a citizen of another state or country.
  • Twelfth Amendment (1804): Revises the presidential and vice presidential election rules such that members of the electoral college, a group of voters appointed by the states, vote for one person as president and another as vice president. Prior to the passage of this amendment, the electors simply voted for two candidates; the one receiving more votes became president and the other became vice president.
  • Thirteenth Amendment (1865): Prohibits slavery (the buying and selling of people who are used for forced labor). Along with the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, it is sometimes called a Civil War amendment. (The Civil War was a conflict fought between the North and the South from 1861 to 1864).
  • Fourteenth Amendment (1868): Defines U.S. citizenship and gives all citizens equal protection under the law. (This amendment made former slaves citizens of both the United States and the state where they lived. It further forbade states to deny equal rights to any person.)
  • Fifteenth Amendment (1870): States that the right of U.S. citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. (This amendment was meant to extend voting rights to black men.)
  • Sixteenth Amendment (1913): Authorizes a federal income tax.
  • Seventeenth Amendment (1913): Provides for the direct election of senators. (Before this amendment was passed, state legislatures elected senators to represent them; this amendment gave that power to the people of each state.)
  • Eighteenth Amendment (1919): Prohibits the manufacture and distribution of alcohol; commonly known as Prohibition.
  • Nineteenth Amendment (1920): Grants women the right to vote.
  • Twentieth Amendment (1933): Also called the "lame duck amendment," changes congressional terms of office and the dates of the presidential inauguration so that newly elected officials take office closer to election time.
  • Twenty-first Amendment (1933): Repeals the Eighteenth Amendment, or Prohibition.
  • Twenty-second Amendment (1951): Limits presidential tenure to two terms in office. (A president can hold office for no more than ten years—two years as an unelected president, and two terms as an elected president.)
  • Twenty-third Amendment (1961): Grants residents of Washington, D.C., the right to vote in presidential elections.
  • Twenty-fourth Amendment (1964): Outlaws the poll tax (a tax of a set amount paid by adults) in all federal elections and primaries. (Some states had used poll taxes as a way of keeping certain populations of voters from casting their ballots; the practice had served primarily to exclude blacks and poor people.)
  • Twenty-fifth Amendment (1967): Provides for procedures to fill the vice presidency and further clarifies presidential succession rules. (Upon removal, resignation, or death of the president, the vice president assumes the presidency; if a vice president is removed, resigns, or dies while in office, the president nominates a vice president who takes office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both houses of Congress.)
  • Twenty-sixth Amendment (1971): Lowers the voting age for federal and state elections to eighteen.
  • Twenty-seventh Amendment (1992): Prevents Congress from passing immediate salary increases for itself; requires that salary changes passed by Congress cannot take effect until after the next congressional election. (This amendment had been passed by Congress in 1788 and was then sent to the states for ratification. Since the amendment had no time limit for ratification, it became part of the Constitutio in 1992, after Michigan became the thirty-eighth state to ratify it.)

Further Information: "Great American Documents." Foundation for the U.S. Constitution. [Online] Available http://www.usconstitution.org/conhomepg1.cfm?whtpage=greatAmerican, October 26, 2000; Jordan, Terry L. The U.S. Constitution: And Fascinating Facts About It. Napier, Ill.: Oak Hill Publishing, 1999; U.S. Constitution. [Online] Available http://www.law.emory.edu/FEDERAL/usconst.html, October 26, 2000.

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