In our eleventh post on the Constitution today, we take a look at the final two sections of Article I, which provides for the Congress. Next, we will move to Article II and examine the Executive Branch—the Presidency.
This post is part of a series that will make more sense if it is read in order. If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, please click here to start with the first one. One reason I’ve broken this series into fairly small parts is that we have a tendency to rush through reading the Constitution and miss a lot of it. I hope the readers of this series will ponder the points in each session. I also hope you will comment on each post as we go along.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document will be in this color and italicized.
SECTION 9. 1 The Migration or Importation 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.
This is sort of a “grandfather” clause for immigration proceedings the various states may have already set up.
2 The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
The founders were very cautious about not allowing the detention of citizens without proper legal cause.
3 No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
They didn’t want Congress to be able to pass laws that would punish anyone for anything done before the law was passed or to punish anyone without a proper trial..
4 No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
Until the passage of the 16th Amendment, the federal government was not allowed to pass direct taxes like the income tax.
5 No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.
This was important to the Southern states, which depended heavily on exporting their crops to European nations. It was one of the compromises reached during the convention.
6 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.
The convention was very careful to see that the federal government could not favor one state over another. Unfortunately, they could not foresee and protect against today’s situation in which the federal government takes tax money and spends it to pay people in big cities not to work or underwrites massive public works boondoggles in one state to the exclusion of others.
7 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 one can just arbitrarily decide to write a check against the Treasury. It must be authorized by Congress by the passage of appropriations bills.
8 No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
It is common for Presidents to be given gifts by foreign heads of state, but they must be of nominal value.
SECTION 10. 1 No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; 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, or grant any Title of Nobility.
This is sort of a catch-all forbidding states from doing things that are either prohibited or reserved to the federal government.
2 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.
Again, preventing states from treading in federal territory.
3 No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, 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.
This final section of Article I spells out a few more activities that are reserved to the federal government. Since these and other things we’ve already examined are the express domain of the federal government and prohibited to the states, it should be abundantly clear that the Tenth Amendment, which reads, “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” was put in to protect us from the assumption of too much power by the federal government. We will discuss that more in a future post.
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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