This post covering Articles V and VI of the Constitution 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.
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.
This article establishes the procedure for amending the Constitution. Without it, we would have an unchangeable document. With it, this document can be changed, but they intentionally made it difficult to effect any such changes. If a simple majority could amend it at any time, we would probably have a totally new constitution every time an election changed the party in power. The requirement that either a two-thirds majority in both houses or a convention called for by two-thirds of the states is necessary in order to propose amendments, which must then be ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states, assures us of a continuity which would otherwise be lacking.
The article also puts a few changes off limits. The Constitution could not be amended prior to 1808 to stop the importation of slaves, and no change could be made in the method of taxation that was unfair or not proportional. Also, no amendment could be passed denying any state its share of representation in the Senate, although this latter provision was ignored for a while in the aftermath of the War Between the States.
1 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 Confederation.
This paragraph binds the United States to all the obligations incurred under the Articles of Confederation. This was important for legitimacy and recognition by foreign nations.
2 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 Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
This paragraph establishes the supremacy of the federal government over those of the various states. Unfortunately, this has been abused to allow Presidents and the court system to run roughshod over the states in the last century.
3 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.
This requirement seems so basic it almost should go without saying. Obviously, all these elected and appointed officers should be bound to support the Constitution. As the Executive Branch has become more powerful, however, Presidents have at times ignored the Constitution they’re sworn to uphold and acted strictly to further their own aims, such as the current flooding of our nation with Middle-Easterners who all too often turn out to want the destruction of our nation, or others who are allowed to enter illegally and then given all sorts of social services despite their illegal status.
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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