Monday, January 02, 2012

The Constitution Article 1, sec 1-3

Much of the information in this series is found at The United States Constitution Online. I highly recommend this site for further exploration of the meaning of our Constitution and give it up front credit for many of the ideas written here. Article 1 deals with the Legislative branch of our government - outlining the powers vested in the Congress.
Section 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.
The legislative branch was divided into two bodies with unique responsibilities. This further divided the power in government and assured difficulty in one party gaining too much power.
Section 2 Clause 1: 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.
This clause sets out the terms of electing the members of the House. Every two years, each member of the House must stand for election. The second part of that clause refers to the electors from each state. I believe this part is now outdated as we directly elect our members of Congress instead of voting for electors to represent our vote. The wording here is similar to the Electoral College used to formally elect the President.
Clause 2: 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.
Here the qualifications to be a Representative are given - 25 years of age, a citizen for 7 years, and living in the state from which he has been elected.
Clause 3: 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.2 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 chuse 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.
In this section, the number of Representatives from each state is given. Essentially, the number of Representatives from each state is determined by the population of that state. As you can see, the effects of slavery are in this clause as there is mention of "Number of free persons...". This section was later modified by amendment after the Civil War.
Clause 4: When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
Here, the power to fill vacancies in the House of Representatives is given to the executive of the state in which the vacancy occurs. This may be by appointment until such time as an election can be held.
Clause 5: The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
The power of impeaching certain federal officers is specifically given to the House of Representatives.
Section 3 Clause 1: The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof,3 for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
The makeup of the second legislative body is given here - 2 Senators from each state. In the House, representation is not equal. The number of Representatives is related to the population of the states. Here, the drafters of the Constitution leveled the representation by giving each state the same number of Senators. This gives equal footing to the less populous states.
Clause 2: 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.4
Again, the election of Senators is different than that of Representatives. Only 1/3 of the Senate stands for election every 2 years. Again, this helps equalize the power of the less populous states by keeping their Senators for a longer period. Also, this clause outlines the process for filling any vacancies.
Clause 3: 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.
Here the qualifications for Senator are given - 30 years old, a citizen of the US for 9 years, and living in the state from which he is elected.
Clause 4: The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided. Clause 5: The Senate shall chuse 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.
These clauses outline the leadership structure of the Senate. The Vice-President presides over the Senate, but only votes in the case of a tie.
Clause 6: 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. Clause 7: 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.
These final 2 clauses define the role of the Senate in cases of impeachment. While the House impeaches federal officers, the Senate is given the power of trial. If the President is being tried, then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial. In all other cases, the Vice-President presides (except, of course, in the case of his own impeachment). The maximum penalty for impeachment is removal from office, although the Constitution leaves open the possibility of further prosecution under the law.

Next up: Article 1, sections 4-6

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