FridayConstitutional

Happy Friday and welcome to Friday Constitutional! This is the repost of my series taking a laymen’s look at the United States Constitution. If you have never read the whole Constitution, here is your chance! If you have not read it recently, well, no time like the present, eh? If you are looking for the previous installments of this series, you can find them at the links below:

Friday Constitutional 1 – Preamble, Article One, Sections 1 And 2
Friday Constitutional 2 – Article One, Sections 3 And 4
Friday Constitutional 3 – Article One, Sections 5 And 6
Friday Constitutional 4 – Article One, Sections 7 And 8
Friday Constitutional 5 – Article One, Sections 9 And 10
Friday Constitutional 6 – Article Two, Section 1 (Part One)
Friday Constitutional 7 – Article Two, Sections 1 (Part Two), 2, 3, And 4
Friday Constitutional 8 – Article Three, The Judicial Branch
Friday Constitutional 9 – Article Four, Relationships Between The States
Friday Constitutional 10 – Articles 5, 6 And 7
Friday Constitutional 11 – 1st And 2nd Amendments
Friday Constitutional 12 – 3rd And 4th Amendments
Friday Constitutional 13 – 5th And 6th Amendments
Friday Constitutional 14 – 7th, 8th, 9th And 10th Amendments
Friday Constitutional 15 – 11th And 12th Amendments
Friday Constitutional 16 – 13th And 14th Amendments
Friday Constitutional 17 – 15th, 16th and 17th Amendments

This week we start off with the 18th Amendment, and no I did not plan it so that we would look at 18th Amendment in the 18th installment, you guys give me way too much credit!

Amendment Eighteen:

Section One:

After one year from the ratification of this article 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.

Section one is the meat of this Amendment. It prohibits the sale, manufacture and importation of all intoxicating liquors in the United States and all its territories. It is pretty startling at in its scope. Like Proposition 8 in California this is one of the very few times that there is an Amendment that removes existing rights. Interestingly the right to consume these beverages is not prohibited.

This Amendment the only Amendment that was every repealed in a wholesale manner rather than just modified. The reason for this was that it was a catastrophic flop. Not only did it eliminate the consumption of alcohol by the people of the United States, it is a proximate cause for the vast increase in organized crime during the 20’s and 30’s.


Section Two:

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

This section is the standard boiler plate that empowers the Congress to legislate to ensure enforcement.

Section Three:

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 is the other first that the 18th Amendment had; it was the very first Amendment that was given a time limit for ratification. Though the Congress bowed to the pressure of the Temperance movement in voting for this Amendment, they did not leave it hanging out there forever. If the States had not ratified it in those seven years, it would have died and not been able to come back without further Congressional action.

Amendment Nineteen:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

One of the shortest Amendments but one of the most important to my mind is the 19th Amendment. 55 years after African American men were granted the vote, women of all races were finally deemed to be worthy of the Franchise. This was a great step forward in our nation, recognizing that more that fifty percent of the adult population has a valid and necessary voice in the affairs of our nation.

19th Amendment fun fact: the last State to ratify the 19th Amendment was Mississippi, in 1984! This was after it had rejected it in 1920.


Amendment Twenty:

Section One:

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

The 20th Amendment is where the timing for the inauguration of the President and the start of the new Congress was changed. Originally this was done on the 4th of March, which makes sense for the time that the Constitution was written. Winter travel to and from Philadelphia and then Washington D.C. was difficult and hazardous. Setting the start of the new terms or Congress in the spring was a practical matter. As transportation became less of a challenge and the responsibilities of the Congress grew, this timing lead to what was called the Lame Duck session of Congress starting after the first of the year.

During the beginning of the Depression this time frame between the election of a new President in the start of November and his taking office in March was deemed to be unacceptable and so it was changed to what we have today.

Section Two:

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

The date the Congress starts is important as it is where the President and Vice President are actually elected. When this amendment was created it was done so as to give enough time to resolve problems before a President is supposed to start his term.

Section Three:

If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

Section Three is designed to make it clear what the flow of power will be if there are things like the death of a President Elect prior to his taking office. When it says qualified that is more about the number of Electors that vote for him or her from the Electoral College than it is about spurious claims of not being born in this country, as we had this last January. If there is a problem with the Electoral College it is the Congress of the United States that would vote. They would be required to vote as whole State Delegations, not as individual Representatives.

Section Four:

The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.

This section is really interesting. Basically it says that the House can choose who among its members would become President if the President dies (and there is no Vice President) and the Senate gets to pick who among its members would be Vice President in that case. Now, most of us know that the Speaker of the House is the third in line for President, anyone know who it fourth? It is the President Pro Tem of the Senate. So, if by some horrible accident both President Obama and Vice President Biden were to die, our new President would be Speaker Boehner (gods greater and lesser help us all!) and our new VP Senator Daniel Inouye. The President Pro Tempore of the Senate is traditionally the most senior member of the majority party.

This is more than a little chilling as not only would the nation be facing a huge problem with the loss of both the President and VP we would also have our top two officials being from different and very polarized political parties. (shiver)

Section Five:

Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article
This section was important as it needed to be in place at the time of the first election after ratification.


Section Six:

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission

As with the 18th Amendment the 20th was given a time line for ratification. Note that the 19th which granted voting rights for women was not.

We will call it a week right here, citizens. What are your thoughts?

The floor is yours.

Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org