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United States Constitution | Study Guide

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United States Constitution | Amendments 11–19 | Summary



Amendment 11

Federal courts may not try cases where individuals from one state try to sue another state (e.g., citizens from South Carolina suing the state of Georgia). The court also cannot try a case brought by a foreign country or state.

Amendment 12

The 12th Amendment revises the way the president and vice president are elected. They must be elected separately, instead of the vice president being the presidential candidate with the second-highest votes. This amendment allows for different parties to nominate their chosen candidates for both offices, and it states that a president and vice president must reside in two different states.

Amendment 13

The 13th Amendment outlaws slavery in any form and makes it legal for Congress to enforce the ban.

Amendment 14

This amendment gives citizenship to former slaves and proclaims that all citizens of the United States have equal treatment under the law. It also revokes the "three-fifths compromise" part of Article 1. Additionally, it extends the right to vote to all male citizens age 21 and over and gives Congress the right to reduce a state's number of representatives if the state denies its citizens the right to vote. No one found guilty of rebellion may hold a public office, and no debts or losses incurred from the emancipation of slaves will be seen as valid.

Amendment 15

The 15th Amendment makes it illegal to deny the right to vote to anyone based on race.

Amendment 16

This amendment gives Congress the right to pass an income tax on citizens.

Amendment 17

The 17th Amendment revises an earlier article's system of electing senators. Instead of being elected by state legislators, senators are now elected by the vote of the residents of the state.

Amendment 18

This amendment institutes Prohibition, making it illegal to make, sell, or transport alcohol in the United States.

Amendment 19

The 19th Amendment gives women age 21 and older the right to vote.


The 11th Amendment was prompted by a court case in which men from the state of South Carolina attempted to sue the state of Georgia over some debts. The Supreme Court ruled their suit was valid. Many people pushed back against this ruling, and the 11th Amendment was passed as a result in 1795.

Before the 12th Amendment, problems arose when the president and vice president elected under the original system were from opposing parties. In 1796 Federalist John Adams was elected president, and his opponent Thomas Jefferson of the Democratic-Republican Party ended up vice president. This brought to light some major issues with the way presidential elections were structured and led to the 12th Amendment being passed in 1804.

The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments all result from the Civil War. Their content is directed toward illegalizing slavery, establishing rights for freed slaves, and punishing rebel leaders from the Confederacy. Although these amendments established former slaves and all African-Americans as citizens with the right to vote, most southern states still violently deterred the African-American community from voting. Other methods, including poll taxes and mandatory literacy tests, were also used to keep African-Americans from the polls. Native Americans were actually legally and specifically excluded from the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment and were not allowed to vote until the 1920s.

Until the 16th Amendment, mandatory federal income tax didn't exist in the United States. This amendment gave Congress the right to pass laws directly taxing citizens, and it is the foundation for many tax laws that have been put in place since.

In 1919, as a result of the 18th Amendment, alcohol (for drinking) officially became an illegal substance in the United States. The amendment was passed during a wave of popular temperance movements, but it had a lot of unforeseen negative effects. People kept buying, selling, and making alcohol on the black market. Because there was no regulation, many people sold bad moonshine, which killed or blinded the people who drank it. The alcohol black market also gave strength to the developing organized crime scene.

On August 18, 1920, after a long, violent struggle, women finally won the right to vote. The women's suffrage movement had been struggling for this and other rights since 1848. Women had gained the right to vote in England only two years prior, and 1920 saw a similar shift in U.S. voting laws with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

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