The U.S. Constitution, recognized as the supreme and basic law upon which the framework of the U.S. government is set, has been amended 27 times over the past 200 years. The first 10 amendments are collectively known as the ‘Bill of Rights’, and the other 17 are the subsequent amendments.
The Constitution of the United States of America was officially adopted on 17th September, 1787, at the Federal Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since then, it has been amended 27 times, and can be amended in the future as well. The procedure for amending the constitution as described in Article V involves two parts. The first part is the proposal of the amendments by a vote of two-thirds majority in both houses of the Congress.
The second part is the ratification of the proposed amendment, that is, it should be approved by three-fourths of states or a majority vote of the state legislatures. The 27 amendments to the U.S. constitution are as follows.
Amendments 1 – 10: Bill of Rights (Ratified on 12/15/1791)
Amendment 1: Rights of freedom of religion (prohibits establishment of one religion over another by law, practicing religion freely), freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of press.
Amendment 2: Right to possess arms.
Amendment 3: Quartering of soldiers prohibited during peacetime. Soldiers should be quartered at a civilian home only with the owner’s permission.
Amendment 4: Freedom from seizure of property, arrests and searches without a specific warrant.
Amendment 5: Prohibits trial for a crime except on indictment of a Grand Jury and double jeopardy, prohibits punishment without legal procedures and taking away of private property without adequate compensation.
Amendment 6: Right to a public and speedy trial by an impartial jury, to confront the witnesses against the accused, and to have a legal attorney in defense of the accused.
Amendment 7: Right to trial by a jury in civil cases.
Amendment 8: Prohibits imposing cruel, unusual punishments and fines, prohibits granting excessive bails.
Amendment 9: Assures the recognition of those rights that people may have but are not listed within it.
Amendment 10: Provides that the powers that are not given to the United States nor prohibited by the constitution are reserved to the states respectively or to the people.
Amendments 11 – 27
Amendment 11: Clearly states the judicial powers of the U.S. states and the federal government on foreign nationals and the limitations of the citizens to sue states under federal law. (Ratified on 2/7/1795.)
Amendment 12: Specifies the procedure for electing the president and the vice-president of the U.S. separately by ballot votes. (Ratified on 6/15/1804.)
Amendment 13: Establishes the abolishment of slavery from the U.S. and all the places that fall under its jurisdiction. (Ratified on 12/6/1865.)
Amendment 14: Broadly defines the parameters of the U.S. citizenship, prohibits the states from reducing or diminishing the privileges of citizens and emphasizes their ‘right to due process and the equal protection of the law’. (Ratified on 7/9/1868.)
Amendment 15: The citizens’ right to vote shall not be denied by the states or the federal government on the basis of race, color or previous status of servitude. (Ratified on 2/3/1870.)
Amendment 16: Authorizes the federal government to collect taxes on income without apportionment. (Ratified on 2/3/1913.)
Amendment 17: Establishes the direct election of the senators to the United States Senate. (Ratified on 4/8/1913.)
Amendment 18: Prohibits the manufacture, sale, transportation, import or export of intoxicating beverages within the U.S. and all the territories falling under its jurisdiction. (Ratified on 1/16/1919.)
Amendment 19: Establishes that the citizens’ right to vote shall not be denied on the basis of their gender or sex. (Ratified on 8/18/1920.)
Amendment 20: States in detail the terms of office that the President, the Vice-President, the Senators and the Representatives shall hold. (Ratified on 1/23/1933.)
Amendment 21: Repeals the 18th Amendment. Prohibits the importation of intoxicating beverages. (Ratified on 12/5/1933.)
Amendment 22: Establishes that the Presidential term is limited to two 4 year terms and a person shall be elected to the presidential office only once if he has served as an acting President for more than 2 years. (Ratified on 2/27/1951.)
Amendment 23: Allows the representation of the District of Columbia in the Presidential elections. (Ratified on 3/29/1961.)
Amendment 24: Prohibits the non-payment of poll tax or other tax as a basis of denial of the right to vote. (Ratified on 1/23/1964.)
Amendment 25: The Vice President shall become President in case the President is removed from office or in case of his death. (Ratified on 2/10/1967.)
Amendment 26: Prohibits the federal government or the state from denying any citizen who is 18 years or above, the right to vote. (Ratified on 7/1/1971.)
Amendment 27: Establishes that any law that increases or decreases the Congressional pay shall not be put to effect until the next term of office of the representatives begins. (Ratified on 5/7/1992).
The amendments that were proposed but were not ratified are Article 1 of the original Bill of Rights, Child Labor Amendment, District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment, the Corwin Amendment, and the Titles of Nobility Amendment. Of the 27 amendments, only 26 amendments are in effect, since the 21st amendment repeals the 18th amendment.