Members of the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Constitution became effective in year 1789.
Law is made also of language, and all natural langauges change. It has been many years, since the Constitution was written. Today, most people interpret “chusing” as “choosing”, “controul” as “control”, and speakers of American English would think “honor” and “behavior”, rather than “honour” and “behaviour”. Feel welcome to read the Constitution in modern American English.
The text in modern American English compares the parchment and the print, bringing the content to the language standard as it is today. All modern uses are based on the Constitution itself: the language change to have brought American English as we know it now was taking place already the time the document was being written. Feel welcome to the NOTES.
The Constitution was first written up on parchment, signed, and then printed and distributed for people’s approval. Feel welcome to Constitution historic documents: the parchment can be viewed at the National Archives.
John Carter’s print was used in the ratification process.
Feel also welcome to read about the making of the Constitution: inspiration with Thomas Paine’s work, and the idea for a country to have a constitution.
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.
Sect. 1. ALL legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Sect. 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the people of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.
No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each State shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.
The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other officers, and shall have the sole power of impeachment.
Sect. 3. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.
Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided, as equally as may be, into three classes. The seats of the Senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the second year, of the second class at the expiration of the fourth year, and of the third class at the expiration of the sixth year, so that one third may be chosen every second year; and if vacancies happen, by resignation or otherwise, during the recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies.
No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.
The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.
The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
Judgment, in cases of impeachment, shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States; but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment according to law.
Sect. 4. The times, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
Sect. 5. Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own Members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent Members, in such manner, and under such penalties, as each House may provide.
Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.
Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the Members of either House, on any question, shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.
Neither House, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
Sect. 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no person holding any office under the United States shall be a Member of either House, during his continuance in office.
Sect. 7. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments, as on other bills.
Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approves, he shall sign it; but if not, he shall return it, with his objections, to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.
Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment), shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.
Sect. 8. The Congress shall have power:
To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;
To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies, throughout the United States;
To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
To establish post offices and post roads;
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by the Congress;
To exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of the Congress, become the seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the Legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings; — And,
To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
Sect. 9. 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.
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.
No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.
No capitation or other direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any State. No preference shall be given, by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to 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.
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 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.
Sect. 10. No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything 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.
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. No State shall, without the consent of the 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.
Sect. 1. The Executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected as follows:
Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of Electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a majority of all the States shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President.
The Congress may determine the time of choosing the Electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes, which day shall be the same throughout the United States.
No person, except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.
In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President; and the Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, resignation, or inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what officer shall then act as President, and such officer shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
The President shall, at stated times, receive for his services a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.
Before he enters on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.
Sect. 2. The President shall be Commander in Chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the Executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices; and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law. But the Congress may, by law, vest the appointment of such inferior officers as they think proper, in the President alone, in courts of law, or in the heads of departments.
The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.
Sect. 3. He shall, from time to time, give to the Congress information of the state of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.
Sect. 4. The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
Sect. 1. The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. Judges, both of the Supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
Sect. 2. The Judicial Power shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made under their authority; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more States; between a State and citizens of another State; between citizens of different States; between citizens of the same State claiming lands under grants of different States; and between a State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens, or subjects.
In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, and those in which a State shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.
The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the State where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.
Sect. 3. Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason, unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on the confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture, except during the life of the person attainted.
Sect. 1. Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.
Sect. 2. Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.
A person charged in any State with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another State, shall, on demand of the Executive authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having jurisdiction of the crime.
No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.
Sect. 3. New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by a junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned, as well as of the Congress.
The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations, respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed, as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular State.
Sect. 4. The United States shall guarantee, to every State in this Union, a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and, on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.
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.
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 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 judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and 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.
The ratification of the Conventions of Nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.
There has been some change in American English, regarding the definite and indefinite articles. We may relate to Greek notions for a category and a type, to discuss. We can regard the definite article as akin to the Greek τώς, meaning “in this wise” (see Perseus).
Our category might embrace a type:
We, the people of the United States…
The type, the people of the United States, would belong with a wider notion, that of people generally.
A type can help specify:
the Electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.
Classic grammar guidance still happens to regard the articles structurally. When we want to expand our phrases with the particle of, classic grammars might favor the definite article, unless we are clearly unspecific:
those bound to service for a term of years…
In the framework, the Constitution would have a clause as
No preference shall be given, by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to the ports of one State over those of another;
Modern American English is becoming more and more generative, also in grammatical guidance. A phrase as the ports of a State might imply we select from ports of a State. A phrasing as, the ports of Washington State are exempt from the new rate, might give the impression there are some other ports in the State which are not exempt, hence
No preference shall be given, by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to ports of one State over those of another: the most general reference here is the territory of the USA, and it does not imply a category as ports in general/ on Earth/ worldwide. Comparatively, we can think about generally people, with We, the people of the United States.
Categories can help perceive without redundancy; for example, humans can make an own category: we do not need to refer to other objects of thought or species, as in the context here. Part three of the Travel in Grammar may bring more. Feel welcome to the Bibliography.
Considering our way with grammatical articles, let us mind that the classic, phrasal idea — to use the definite article the in phrases with the possessive of — will fail in matters as everyday and usual as choosing between forms a son/ daughter of, and the son/ daughter of.
A son of a smith may mean one of a few sons, as well as the only son, but with a family tradition for metalworking, e.g. I hear you’re looking for someone good to take care of the horseshoes. Meet John, a true son of a smith.
The son of a smith may mean the only son, as well as one of many sons, but the one to continue the tradition, e.g. All Tom’s boys have gone different walks, only Mark is the true son of a smith.
In the times the Constitution was written, grammars, still mostly coming from Britain, insisted on the animate versus the inanimate to regard the possessive, as in the phrase of one State.
Let us now think why we use capital letters at all. We can say we do this for proper nouns, but then we might face long disputes on what proper nouns are, or where a noun is proper, and where it is a common noun, inclusive even of geography, sometimes.
We can reckon on closed and open sets, and connect our thinking about the articles and big or small letters. Our sets do not have to be about quantity, and mostly they would not be concerned with numbers. Here, let us try a closed set where the function (role) or quality is determined with regard to the form of government (the politeia):
the Electors (closed set) in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors (open set) of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.
For an open set, we can think about State inhabitants. Americans have been described as a “nation on the move”: people happen to change whereabouts among the States; read an article by the US Census Bureau. Durational residence and other requirements for voting happen to be discussed in front of the Supreme Court (US Supreme Court online). Further, also citizens are not necessarily a defined political function.
A closed set does not have to mean one without prospect for change, and it may praise a big letter when the reference is human, as we can interpret the Constitution style. We can find the tendency in the parchment Executive Authority; Carter print has the Executive authority or the Executive: a phrase for a governmental function by a person or a body of people may come with a big letter.
Generative grammar has the advantage that it can explain language uses where classic guidance tells merely to memorize. On the other hand, we need to put our thinking into our skill. Let us be flexible and consistent. As we would not “listen to”, or “read” empty rooms for the House of Representatives, the Senate, or the Supreme Court, we comprehend easy, why Carter print capitalizes Representation. What follows, our modern American English can advocate cognitive capitals for the phrase Executive Authority entire, as a body of people.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.
When the focus is on the function at work, and not a person or a body of people, we stay with a small letter:
The Congress shall have power to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.
Let us now compare Article III, Sections 1 and 2.
The Judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish;
The Judicial Power shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution…
Article IV Section 2 will welcome a cognitive approach, in the light:
A person charged in any State with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another State, shall, on demand of the Executive authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having jurisdiction of the crime.
Prosecution of treason, felonies, and crimes relies on government procedures, and no body of people can decide to “skip a felon”.
Why at all, to capitalize the Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary? The Constitution style clearly allows reference to the Greek politeia, along with the tripartite form of governmental power as by Montesquieu. If we were to use big letters for any function a country needs, we would have Admiralty, Navy, Army, and many more big letters. Therefore, we can compare print for officers, and spell judges, as the role would not be decided by politics: for example, we do not tell the difference between monarchy and democracy by the judicial power, as it is present in both; judges do not become replaced with change in the political majority in Congress.
Naturally, this does not mean we never could spell the words officer or judge with capital letters. Our spelling will always depend on our semantic sets. Please mind, I provide the source HTML for my free posters: having own resolve, a person may change the source file before printing (browser window 80% zoom for proper scale; Ctrl and minus key twice).
Please note that some classicist guidance might have implied respect for a reason to use capital letters. Many people cannot agree with such advice, with many spellings. I do not respect Adolf Hitler, for example, and the German has always sort of hurt my ears; still, I spell also the word Nazis with the capital letter, for the finite association.
To be generative, we can use syntactic tests, to consider semantic sets and grammatical articles. We need an article, if we’d use one with a that-clause:
The Constitution says that
a majority of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business;
citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.
We can compare the amendments, which are a bit more recent:
Amendment XI: The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit, in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign State.
Amendment XXVI: The right of citizens of the United States who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged, by the United States or by any State, on account of age.
If we compare the phrase, we the people, where people generally can be the category, we may note that a phrase as “citizens of the world” could be only a figure of speech, when we talk legislation, and citizens generally cannot make a real, inclusive category in this case.
Importantly, we are not “correcting the Constitution”. American English was becoming generative already at the time the document was written and printed. Let us compare Article 3, Section 2:
The Judicial Power shall extend (…) to controversies between a State and citizens of another State; between citizens of different States; between citizens of the same State claiming lands under grants of different States; and between a State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens, or subjects.
We can interpret the phrase the citizens thereof as “some citizens”. We may compare the Constitution with regard to commissioning officers. There are also non-commissioned American officers. Article 2, Section 3 says:
The President shall commission all the officers of the United States.
Another syntactic test may use the quantifier all:
Judges, both of the Supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior…
The sense is all judges, without exception or selection, as the phrase all the judges might imply.
Predictions on procedures would encourage the definite article:
The Congress shall have power to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States.
The Constitution has generative flexibility also with this regard, however. Let us compare. Article 4 Section 4 says:
The United States shall guarantee, to every State in this Union, a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and, on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.
Article 5 says:
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.
The phrase the application refers to the specific context that precedes directly, that of proposing amendments.
If we choose to be cognitive, we can explain phrases as during the session of Congress, or in Congress assembled as referring to events that occur together. It is when we speak about generally the Congress existing and acting that we use the definite article, yet we mind the article may imply other governmental powers, as sets within our semantic category of tripartite capacity. Let us compare:
during the recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may…
The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting…
We can tell the category here is government tripartite capability or governmental powers generally, and we recognize sets, as the Legislative, the Executive (the President), and the Judiciary. We may compare the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
If we used the article and said, the Congress, we might hint at other sets within US governmental powers, and that would not be justified: the amendment does not suggest any potential by a governmental power to make such regulations. Let us please mind we think here about government as discussed in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, not as a cabinet.
Finally, classic grammars may interpret the verb “shall” for a “false imperative” or a word to express actually a resolve. The Oxford Learners Dictionary says it is a Modal that shows we “are determined”, or we want “to give an order or instruction”. We absolutely cannot believe that for American English; the Constitution says,
The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the State where the said crimes shall have been committed.
Let us think how the story began. In British English, the word form “shall” actually belonged with monarchy, for quite a proportion of time. Early Anglo-Saxon poetry would tell about “a king who shall win a queen”. To use the verb with the first person singular, that is, to say I shall, one had to be a royal or in the service. Otherwise, they were the “mad Bedlam”. British commoners and other people, if they used the verb form “shall”, it was mostly with the third person, he, she, or it. For own resolves, the verb form “will” prevailed.
With American liberty and freedom, human ability to say I will grew stronger; the verb form “will” became fit for the third person, he, she, or it, to tell about high probability as well. The verb form “shall” became suppositive. In the Constitution, it belongs with contexts where we can think “if” or “when the circumstance is”, too.
In other words, “shall” became used to prefigure on matters. This kind of thinking involves a default premise. To interpret “crimes shall have been committed”, we assume the premise: if crimes become committed. The Constitutional clause — also common sense — is not a recommendation to commit a felony or crime.
The subjunctive along the verb form “shall” has become purely a matter of style, in modern American English. The verb form anyway renders a supposition, and there is no king or queen figure psychologically to bind the third person — which quite probably originated the classic canon, forwarded in school guidance without the premise — hence,
Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approves, he shall sign it: the President’s signature is necessary as well as sufficient, to pass a law.
The Constitution itself offers the use: When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; part four of the Travel in Grammar may have more.
The style of noting on the date of the document, which included the phrase “year of our Lord”, is no longer in use for State legislation, and I do not keep it in my typescripts and posters for modern American English. Feel welcome to the portfolio.
US CONSTITUTION PRINT BY JOHN CARTER
John Carter printed the Constitution in 1787, following a resolve by the General Assembly for Rhode Island and Providence, from October 1787:
It is voted and resolved, that the report of the Convention, lately held at Philadelphia, proposing a new Constitution for the United States of America, be printed as soon as may be; that the following number of copies be sent to the several town clerks in the State, to be distributed among the inhabitants, that the freemen may have an opportunity of forming their sentiments of the said proposed Constitution.
His print can be viewed at the US Library of Congress.
His manner to divide words might have been purposed to help discussion and quoting: except people’s names (they have letter characters equally spaced and fit as the column allows), the right brim of each column can help find matters for the general public to assent. For example, at the word per-fect, the term union would deserve attention. My public domain portfolio of posters has replicas of his print.
Poster replicas of the United States Constitution print by John Carter, exclusive of characters ſ and ∫ (s); font Adobe Caslon Pro 14pt, character spacing +0.7pt on average, kerning 14pt and above, indentation 8pt LEX (Latin for law, see Perseus); line height 1; poster size 1687×2795 pixels; content width-to-height ratio approx. 65%, as in the original layout.
I used his layout to present the Constitution in Modern American English. Feel welcome to the entire portfolio. It has source HTML files, to allow editing before print: I do not claim my presentation has to be perfect, especially to everyone.
John Carter’s print spells “secrecy” as “ſecreſy”; “secresy” was a variant for “secrecy” at the time. “Controul” was a variant for “control”. The print spelling “ensure” compares with “encrease”; the parchment spells “insure”: a document is more likely to insure than to ensure, in the sense of the word today, and this is my resolve for the content in modern American English. However, the Latin word sensus never has been used for a census, spelled with a “c” in the parchment, handwritten Constitution; I do not render the print error in my poster. (Let us mind the print was done “soon as might be”).
Carter print also has spellings as “defence”, “behaviour”, or “honour”, nowadays associated with British English. The change in American spellings was taking place already at the time of his print. We can compare The Declaration of Independence: it says “honor”. John Carter most probably did not want a dispute over spellings to distract people from the Constitutional matter at hand.
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Declaring American independence was legal. It would have been without the Declaration that the War of Independence might be termed a rebellion.
Declaration: WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Thomas Paine: Were a manifesto to be published, and despatched to foreign courts, setting forth the miseries we have endured, and the peaceable methods we have ineffectually used for redress; declaring, at the same time, that not being able, any longer, to live happily or safely under the cruel disposition of the British court, we had been driven to the necessity of breaking off all connections with her; at the same time, assuring all such courts of our peacable disposition towards them, and of our desire of entering into trade with them: Such a memorial would produce more good effects to this Continent, than if a ship were freighted with petitions to Britain.
Mankind being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance.
But there is another and greater distinction for which no truly natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is, the distinction of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. (…) As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of Scripture.
I offer the following extracts from that wise observer on governments, Dragonetti. “The science” says he “of the politician consists in fixing the true point of happiness and freedom. Those men would deserve the gratitude of ages, who should discover a mode of government that contained the greatest sum of individual happiness, with the least national expense.”
Declaration: …whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Thomas Paine: In short, monarchy and succession have laid (not this or that kingdom only) but the world in blood and ashes. ‘Tis a form of government which the word of God bears testimony against, and blood will attend it.
Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expence and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
But the most powerful of all arguments, is, that nothing but independance, i. e. a Continental form of government, can keep the peace of the Continent and preserve it inviolate from civil wars.
The colonies have manifested such a spirit of good order and obedience to Continental government, as is sufficient to make every reasonable person easy and happy on that head.
PHILADELPHIA CONVENTION AND CONSTITUTION
Thomas Paine: A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance.
Let the assemblies be annual, with a President only. The representation more equal. Their business wholly domestic, and subject to the authority of a Continental Congress.
Let each colony be divided into six, eight, or ten, convenient districts, each district to send a proper number of delegates to Congress, so that each colony send at least thirty. The whole number in Congress will be least 390.
And in order that nothing may pass into a law but what is satisfactorily just, not less than three fifths of the Congress to be called a majority (The argument overall being on the need for a large representation, TPelka).
But as there is a peculiar delicacy, from whom, or in what manner, this business must first arise, and as it seems most agreeable and consistent that it should come from some intermediate body between the governed and the governors, that is, between the Congress and the people, let a CONTINENTAL CONFERENCE be held, in the following manner, and for the following purpose.
A committee of twenty-six members of Congress, viz. two for each colony. Two members for each House of Assembly, or Provincial Convention; and five representatives of the people at large, to be chosen in the capital city or town of each province, for, and in behalf of the whole province, by as many qualified voters as shall think proper to attend from all parts of the province for that purpose; or, if more convenient, the representatives may be chosen in two or three of the most populous parts thereof. In this conference, thus assembled, will be united, the two grand principles of business, KNOWLEDGE and POWER. The members of Congress, Assemblies, or Conventions, by having had experience in national concerns, will be able and useful counsellors, and the whole, being impowered by the people, will have a truly legal authority.
The conferring members being met, let their business be to frame a CONTINENTAL CHARTER, or Charter of the United Colonies; (answering to what is called the Magna Charta of England) fixing the number and manner of choosing members of Congress, members of Assembly, with their date of sitting, and drawing the line of business and jurisdiction between them: (Always remembering, that our strength is Continental, not provincial:) Securing freedom and property to all men, and above all things, the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; with such other matter as is necessary for a charter to contain. Immediately after which, the said Conference to dissolve, and the bodies which shall be chosen comformable to the said charter, to be the legislators and governors of this Continent for the time being: Whose peace and happiness, may God preserve, Amen.
GEORGE WASHINGTON’S LETTER TO THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS
George Washington: It is obviously impracticable, in the federal government of these States, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all. Individuals entering into society must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstance, as on the object to be obtained.
Thomas Paine: For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. (The use here is to denote: in other cases, too; TPelka)
The object, contended for, ought always to bear some just proportion to the expense.
George Washington: In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which are involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence.
It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world. The Continent hath, at this time, the largest body of armed and disciplined men of any power under Heaven; and is just arrived at that pitch of strength, in which, no single colony is able to support itself, and the whole, when united, can accomplish the matter.
Thomas Paine, Common Sense.
Feel also welcome to my public domain translation into Polish.
The word constitution comes from the Latin constituo. In ancient times, “constitutions” were edicts issued by mostly despotic rulers. The ancients happened to incise those notices in stone, as there was no print. When a ruler or authority wanted to change an ordnance, he or she ordered another stone carved. Nowadays, only some researchers would use the word “constitution” for an ancient decree such as the Roman Twelve Tables, speculated to have had rules for ancient plebeians to memorize (we are more dignified than mere memorization, in our Travel in Grammar).
Initially, the USA had the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. They were adopted in 1777, yet became ratified by all thirteen states in 1781. The charter failed to help manage the economy and federal matters of the young Union emerged in the Treaty of Paris (1783). The Treaty ended the Revolutionary War, affirming American freedom from England. The French were American allies in the War.
The Articles were unable to provide for Union finances; the document did not bring the Union enough authority, either.
The Constitutional Convention ― also known as the Philadelphia Convention, or the Federal Convention ― began in 1787. The Constitution came into power in 1789. Rhode Island ratified the Constitution in 1790, as the last of the initial 13 States.
The American Constitution is the longest-lived constitution in the world. It allows amendments. See the Bill of Rights.
Signing the Constitution, a painting by Howard Chandler Christy.