Here is the text of the Constitution as it was originally ratified by the states and first became effective. In other words, this is the document that defined and guided how the entire federal government would be set up to work, at the time it was actually set up. None of the amendments, including the Bill of Rights, had been added yet. To ensure the following text can be understood by just about anybody who can read, the version presented below has been clarified where the original language has become antiquated, or the terms used are not generally understood, and explanatory notes are provided in [brackets] and end notes. Misspellings and odd capitalization from the original have not been altered. The original text of the Constitution, and high resolution photos of the actual document, can be viewed at the National Archives.

We the People of the United States, in Order to improve on this union of sovereign states [i.e., the union formed under the Articles of Confederation], establish Justice, insure domestic peace, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of freedom for ourselves and our descendants, create and set forth this new Constitution for the United States of America.

Article I 

Section 1.

All lawmaking Powers herein granted shall be held by a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section 2.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the voters in each State shall have the same Qualifications as the voters of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have reached the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be allocated among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective populations, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years [i.e., indentured servants], and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons[1]. The actual counting of the population shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and thereafter every ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand people [that is, each representative must represent at least 30,000 people], but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such counting shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When any State representative can no longer serve in congress, the state’s governor shall order an Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker[2] and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment [charging a person holding a federal office with an act that warrants being chastised or removed from office].

Section 3.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three equal portions. The terms in office of the Senators of the first portion shall end after two years, the terms in office of the second portion shall end after four years , and the terms in office of the third portion shall end after six years, so that thereafter one third of all of the senators may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the governor thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the state’s Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have reached the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he has been elected a senator.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless the senate is equally divided in a vote.

The Senate shall choose their other Officers, and also a temporary President to chair the Senate in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to hold a trial for all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall take an Oath [“I solemnly swear … so help me God”] or Affirmation [“I solemnly affirm ….”, in case they don’t believe in God]. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice of the supreme court shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members of the senate present.

The penalty if found guilty of the impeachment charge shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law. [3]

Section 4.

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations,[4] except as to the Places of voting for Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

Section 5.

Each House [that is, both the senate and the house of representatives] shall be the Judge of the Elections, vote counts and Qualifications of its own Members to hold its own official positions, and a Majority of each house shall constitute a Quorum to do Business [a quorum is how many members must be present and voting for the vote to count]; but a smaller Number may attend and adjourn from day to day[5], and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.[6]

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.[7]

Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy[8]; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Section 6.

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, not be subject to being arrested during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the salary and benefits whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Section 7.

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives[9]; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days not counting Sundays after it shall have been presented to him, that bill shall become a law just as though the president had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.[10]

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be re-passed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Section 8.

[This section contains a complete list of all matters the federal government was authorized by the states to handle.]

The Congress shall have Power To impose and collect Taxes [that is, government-imposed charges of virtually any kind], Duties [taxes on goods purchased abroad, as when traveling, and paid when the goods cross the U.S. border upon return], Imposts [taxes on foreign goods, paid when goods being imported come across the U.S. border in the ordinary course of business] and Excises [taxes on goods paid within the U.S.], to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States [this is the only source of income collected by the federal government to fund its operation]; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States [that is, these taxes will be collected everywhere at the same tax rate];

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization [that is, how foreigners can become citizens], and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal[11], and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years[12];

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Section 9.

[This section imposes certain restrictions on the federal government.]

The Migration [of immigrants] or Importation [of slaves] of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus[13] shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder[14] or ex post facto Law[15] shall be passed.

No Capitation[16], or other direct, Tax shall be laid, [17]unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under the United States shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept any present, payment or other benefit, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Section 10.

[This section imposes certain restrictions on the states.]

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit[18]; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts[19], or grant any Title of Nobility.

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Control of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage[20], keep Troops[21], or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

Article II

Section 1.

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

[The Federalist essay 68 explains that the complicated method of electing the president set forth below was carefully designed so that it could only be controlled by the people, and not by any other power (such as a foreign power, or a political party).]

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List 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 shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner choose 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. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall choose from them by Ballot the Vice President.

The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Vice President shall act as president, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or from any state.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Section 2.

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves[22] and Pardons[23] for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment[24].

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Section 3.

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Section 4.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article III

Section 1.

The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Section 2.

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law[25] and Equity[26], arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;— between a State and Citizens of another State,—between Citizens of different States,—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make[27].

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

Section 3.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in supporting their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder[28] of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood[29], or Forfeiture[30] except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Article IV

Section 1.

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.[31] And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Section 2.

[This section establishes certain outcomes when individuals travel from one state to another.]

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

[32]No Person held to Service or Labor in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labor, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labor may be due.

Section 3.

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

Section 4.

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

Article V

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Article VI

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Articles of Confederation.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the state Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Article VII

The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.


[1] “All other persons” refers to slaves. The founders wanted all of the states to join the union, but the agrarian southern states feared their interests would be overwhelmed by the interests of the more populous and prosperous northern states. To entice the south to join, the voting power of the southern states was boosted by a fraction of the number of slaves living there, even though the slaves themselves were not allowed to vote.

[2] A “speaker” is a chairperson of a legislative body.  As such, the speaker typically moderates debate, makes rulings on procedure, announces the results of votes, represents the body in ceremonies, and the like.

[3] The house of representatives can charge the president, or the vice president, or a supreme court judge, or any other person with federal authority, with an act that warrants their being reprimanded or removed from office. The act need not be a crime, but instead could be, for example, an act of moral turpitude, an ethical violation, an unconstitutional power grab, a dereliction of duty, a blatant lie or other betrayal of trust, etc. The senate then conducts a trial. If it’s the president who’s on trial, the chief justice of the supreme court presides, otherwise the president of the senate (i.e., the vice president) presides. After the official is removed from office, if the act committed was a crime, the now ex-official can then be charged with the crime and tried in a regular court. The impeachment verdict simply allows the senate to impose a sanction on the person convicted, up to and including removal of the person from office and forbidding him to hold another office.

[4] For example, congress can pass a law requiring the use of paper ballots in all federal elections; and that the ballots are required to have a pre-determined, simple, easy to understand format; and that the ballots are to be counted in a public forum such as at the polling place by randomly selected voters, in the presence of still other voters as witnesses.

[5] In other words, less than a quorum can discuss issues, but they can’t vote on them.

[6] In other words, if at least half of a chamber of congress doesn’t even show up to work, those who do show up can compel the rest to come to work, in accordance with rules the respective chambers provide for their own use.

[7] This appears to be an alternative to impeachment and conviction.  With impeachment, a member of either chamber may be impeached by a majority vote in the house of representatives, and convicted by a 2/3 majority vote of the senate.  Alternatively, the house may expel one of its own members by a 2/3 majority vote of its own members without requiring a trial in the senate.  Similarly, the senate may expel one of its own members by a 2/3 vote of the senate without the member being impeached by the house of representatives.  In every case, a quorum must be present for the vote to count, that is, at least half of the members must show up to vote.

[8] This is the one and only reference to “secrecy” in the Constitution, and it provides only that the congress, that is, representatives elected directly by the People, may keep secrets if in their judgment it is needed.  No other federal branch or agency is authorized to keep secrets, including the president, the state department, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, and the military.  That is, information regarding the process of MAKING laws, which can be done only by representatives of the People, may be kept confidential; but information regarding the process of IMPLEMENTING the laws by the executive branch may not be.  The founders clearly contemplated that carrying out the laws is to be done openly and transparently.

[9] Note, only the house of representatives, the direct representatives of the People, can impose taxes on them.

[10] In other words, the president has to veto a bill passed by congress if he doesn’t want it to become a law.  If he doesn’t veto it, but doesn’t sign it either, it becomes a law in 10 days even without his signature. Except if congress adjourns and goes home before the 10 days is over. If not for this condition, congress could avoid a veto by simply by adjourning for eleven days after a passing vote, making it impossible for the president to return the bill to congress with his objections within 10 days.

[11] A government license authorizing a person (known as a privateer) to attack and capture enemy sailing vessels and bring them before an admiralty court to be sold for profit.  Privateering with such a license was considered an honorable activity inflicted on a wartime foe. Without the letter, however, it was deemed to be unlicensed piracy, which was universally condemned.

[12] Note, no permanent standing army can be maintained unless congress makes an explicit provision every two years to pay them. 

[13] A court order that requires a person who has been arrested and jailed, or otherwise detained, to be brought before a judge. The judge can hear the prisoner, and compel the release of a person improperly jailed or otherwise unlawfully detained—for example, arrested arbitrarily or without sufficient cause or evidence. The order can be sought by the prisoner himself, or by another person on his behalf.

[14] A legislative act declaring a person or group guilty of some crime, and punishing them without a judicial trial.

[15] A law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of an action performed before the enactment of the law. For example, it may criminalize an action already completed, even though the action was legal when it was performed.

[16] A tax of a fixed amount levied on each person, also called a “head tax”.

[17] The federal government could not tax people directly based on their income. This was modified by the 16th amendment.

[18] State-backed currency.

[19] Note, states may not pass a law adversely affecting existing contracts.

[20] A tax imposed on ships that enter a US port, based on the weight of the ships’ cargo and assessed for the privilege of transacting business in the port.

[21] This pertains to full-time military forces, not to militias.

[22] Temporary postponement of a punishment so that the accused can mount an appeal.

[23] The forgiveness of a crime and the cancellation of the relevant penalty.

[24] So, if congress wants to impeach and remove someone from office, the president can’t stop them.

[25] A case in which a law was violated.

[26] A case in which no law was violated, but something profoundly unfair (inequitable) has happened or will happen unless the court acts to correct or stop it.

[27] Note, congress controls the scope of the supreme courts power except where the court has original jurisdiction, that is, in cases where a state is a party, or pertains to an ambassador, minister, or consul, presumably because international relations of the U.S. may be implicated.

[28] A legal status that regards the person’s blood (and thus, their descendants) as tainted by the crime.

[29] The inability to inherit property, or pass on an inheritance, or to receive or pass on a title of honor or dignity.

[30] Giving up a property, right, or privilege.

[31] This Constitutional provision mandates that a marriage that is valid in one state must be honored in every other, even in a state in which that marriage could not have occurred legally.

[32] This passage makes yet another oblique reference to slavery. It is remarkable that, although the Declaration of Independence states that it is “self-evident” that People are created equal and are endowed with “inalienable rights” to life and liberty, nevertheless the Constitution clearly accommodated the institution of slavery, while avoiding the word itself.