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Constitutional Amendments

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CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS, History of. As shown in a preceding article (see CONSTITUTION, FRAMING OF THE), very few of the States lilced the Constitution as a form of government at all, and fewer still were satisfied with it as an instrument North Carolina had refused to ratify without amend ments and a 6bill of rights)) affixed —a declara tion of the fundamental rights of human beings to which immense importance was attached by the mass at that time; Massachusetts and New Hampshire ratified with an appended urgent recommendation of certain amendments; New York first ratified subject to the right to secede if her amendments were not accepted within six years, and finally changed °on condition° to °in full confidence.° The mass of amend ments proposed in the first Congress was enormous; 103 from the States themselves, and 42 from minorities in other States, besides long bills of rights from New York and Virginia. Some of them were duplicates, but the total was very great; the House rejected them all and agreed on 17 articles in their place. The Senate cut them down to 12 and both Houses passed them; the first two failed of ratification by the States, the remaining 10 were accepted and went into force 15 Dec. 1791.

The text of the Amendments is to be found with the body of the Constitution.

The First Amendment (Article I) was vio lated by the government within a few years in the Sedition Act (see ALIEN AND SEDITION Am), and had no effect in accomplishing its defeat, which was effected by a party revolu tion. Nor has it prevented °gag laws ,° or ex clusion from the mails of whatever has been thought obnoxious. Public opinion in these respects has been found more efficient than the Constitution.

General warrants were a principal grievance of the British customs laws, a fact which ex plains Article IV.

°Life or limb° in Article V is a curious anachronism; modern laws do not prescribe the rack as a punishment. Probably the drafters

of this provision used a current phrase without stopping to analyze its meaning.

The provision of Article VI against Chang. ing the venue was doubtless suggested by the attempts to take Americans to England for trial.

The intrepid jumble of possible and impossi ble dangers of Articles VII—X, inclusive, remi niscences of 17th-century persecutions and 18th century customs laws, of the times of King John and those of George III, of grievances unthinkable except under foreign rule and of others likely enough under their own, of local provisions and world-wide provisions, is amus ingly characteristic of the period and the peo ple; perhaps rather, any period and any people. The Amendments inspired the champions of a strong government with great weariness and disgust; but they are not all anachronisms or precautions. The Tenth especially (added by Massachusetts) has in practice restrained the action of the government greatly, especially in guiding the construction of the Supreme Court; and certain provisions of the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh have been great public safeguards, by no means out of date even yet.

See CH IS HOLM V. GEORGIA, for the cir cumstances under which the Eleventh Amend ment, put in force 8 Jan. 1798, was passed. Maryland had been sued by a private citizen, and submitted; Georgia was sued, refused to plead and threatened with death any one who served a writ in the suit; and she and Virginia pressed through an amendment forbidding such suits by individuals against States, but not vice-versa.

The gist of Article XII is the naming of the candidates for President and Vice-Presi dent separately; the lack of which provision brought about a discreditable intrigue, and re sults political and personal by no means forgot ten. (See ELECTORAL SYSTEM ; JEFFERSON-BURR