Contents: Constitution | Federal Legislation | State Legislation
U.S. Constitution 1788
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
See the Constitution at Cornell Law.
- Article I [The Legislative Branch]
- Article II [The Presidency]
- Article III [The Judiciary]
- Article IV [The States]
- Article V [The Amendment Process]
- Article VI [Legal Status of the Constitution]
- Article VII [Ratification]
Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments)
Amendment I -
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment II -
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Amendment III -
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment IV -
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment V -
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment VI -
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Amendment VII -
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment VIII -
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment IX -
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X -
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
Amendments 1-27 at Cornell
Amendment XIII [Abolition of Slavery (1865)]
Amendment XIV [Privileges and Immunities, Due Process, Equal Protection, Apportionment of Representatives, Civil War Disqualification and Debt (1868)]
Equal Protection Clause:
"No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Amendment XV [Rights Not to Be Denied on Account of Race (1870)]
Specifically the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of race, color or previous condition of servitude.
Amendment XIX [Women's Right to Vote (1920)]
Amendment XXVI [Right to Vote at Age 18 (1971)]
Constitution at Cornell Law School
Constitution at the National Archives
- Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798
It gave the president the power to imprison or deport aliens "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States".
The publication of "any false, scandalous and malicious writing," was a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment. This was passed by the Federalists to quell any political opposition to a war with France from the Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson. Public opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts was so great that they were in part responsible for the election of Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, to the presidency in 1800.
- Missouri Compromise (1820)
The country was divided into free and slave states. Northern states wanted Missori to be a free state. This act prohibited slavery in states established in the Lousiana Purchase Territories.
- Homestead Act (1862)
- Civil War Reconstruction Acts - 186?
- Civil Rights Act of 1866
The act declared that all persons born in the United States were now citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition, excluding Indians not taxed.
However, blacks in the south had limited access to legal help, this left many victims of discrimination without recourse.
The 15th ammendment in 1870 speciFlly gave all male citizens the right to vote.
- Yellowstone National Park Act (1872)
- Indian General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) (1887)
- Sherman Antitrust Act - 1890
- Yosemite National Park established - 1890
- Pure Foods Act of 1906
- Mann Act (1910)
The original intent of the law was to stop prostitutes from being moved from one locale to another or out of the country.
- Clayton Antitrust Act - 1914
- National Industrial Recovery Act - 1933 - Public Works Administration (PWA)
Part of Roosevelt's "New Deal"
- Social Security Act of 1935
- Lend-Lease Act (1941)
- Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) (Social Security) 1954
- Civil Rights Act of 1957
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963
- Clean Air Act (1963)
- Civil Rights Act of 1964 (text)
- Wilderness Act - 1964
- National Emissions Standards Act (1965)
- Voting Rights Act of 1965
- Freedom of Information Act (1966)
- Gun Control Act of 1968
- Fair Housing Act of 1968
- National Environmental Policy Act (1969)
Establishes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) (1969) includes Truth in Lending Act (TILA)
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
Prohibits sex discrimination in education by programs that receive federal financial assistance. One major result was the equal funding of women's athletics in colleges.
- Clean Water Act (1972)
- War Powers Resolution (1973)
- Endangered Species Act (1966, 1969, 1973)
- Safe Drinking Water Act (1974)
- Privacy Act of 1974
- Copyright Act of 1976
- National Forest Management Act (1976)
- Airline Deregulation Act of 1978
- Ethics in Government Act (1978)
- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (1978)
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FICA) [I think this should be "FISA Court", but it is referred to as FICA in numerous places on the Internet] is a secretive panel of federal judges that considers requests from the U.S. Intelligence community to spy on foreign nationals and citizens suspected of being spies or having ties to overseas terrorist groups.
- Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act (1985)
- Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
- Tax Reform Act of 1986
- Reauthorization and expansion of the Clean Water Act- 1987
Passed over veto by President Reagan .
- Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (1988)
- Civil Rights Act of 1991
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993)
- North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (1993)
- Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993
- Megan's Law (Jacob Wetterling Act requires the States to register individuals convicted of sex crimes against children.) 1994
- Violence Against Women Act of 1994
- Lobbying Disclosure Act (1995)
- Highway Safety Act of 1966
- Telecommunications Act of 1996
- Welfare Reform Act of 1996 (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996)
- Defense of Marriage Act (1996)
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPA) - 1996
- International Religious Freedom Act of 1998
- Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998
- Taxpayer Bill of Rights III (1998)
- USA Patriot Act 2001
Makes it easier for intelligence agencies to obtain search and surveillance warrants as part of the War on Terrror after 9-11.
- Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (2001)
Provides reduced estate and gift taxes.
- No Child Left Behind (2001)
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 -
- Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Covers practices relating to the American detention and treatment of prisoners.
An "unlawful enemy combatant" can be any alien determined to be one by a "competent tribunal" established by the President or the Secretary of Defense.
The Act changes pre-existing law to explicitly disallow the invocation of the Geneva Convention when executing the writ of habeas corpus for detainees who are not U.S. citizens.
Proposition 13 - Calif. - 1978 -
Nearly two-thirds of California's voters passed Proposition 13, reducing property tax rates on homes, businesses, and farms by about 57%. Now, according to the newly amended state constitution property tax rates could not exceed 1 percent of the property's market value and valuations couldn't grow by more than 2% per annum unless the property was sold.
Proposition 13 also started a revolution in the people turning to the initiative process to gain greater control over their lives.
See: Prop 13 at Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Major Acts of Congress at enotes
Selected Laws at usinfo.state.gov
Famous Trials and Supreme Court Decisions
U.S. Constitution at usconstitution.com
last updated 18 Oct 2006