Vail Law: Part two of a look at the Constitution
In the first part of this series, we took a bird’s-eye view of the U.S. Constitution, dabbled in the history of its making, and planted teasers for further discussion of the Bill of Rights. As you may recall, the Bill of Rights is comprised of the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. But what comes before the Bill of Rights, like a slice of lunch meat sandwiched between the Preamble and Amendments? Why, the Articles, of course! Seven in all, most with subparts, the Articles define the essential structure of our government. In juxtaposition, the Bill of Rights defines personal freedoms.Article I of the Constitution pertains to the legislative branch of government. It divides the legislative branch into the two houses of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives. It elaborates upon who may serve and when and how they are to be elected. The Article details certain rules and procedures of the respective legislative bodies and bestows upon them certain legislative duties as well as the power to declare war, to levy taxes, coin money, regulate commerce and moreArticle II details the powers of the executive branch of government. It defines the term and qualifications for office of both the President and Vice President. The Article also establishes what has come to be called the Electoral College and provides the blueprint for its operation. Succession of command in the event of the President’s inability to continue in office is provided for and the President’s oath of office is spelled out in its brief entirety. As you might suspect, the powers conferred upon the executive are enumerated, among them the power to make treaties, to appoint ambassadors and other similar officials and to name judges to the Supreme Court of the United States and to the benches of federal courts. It also establishes the President at the commander in chief of the armed forces. Lastly, this Article spells out the terms and conditions under which the President, Vice President and all other civil officers of the United States may be impeached and removed from office.Article III addresses the judicial branch of government. This Article establishes the Supreme Court. The breadth and powers of the Court are defined and the Article provides which controversies are to be presented and resolved before the federal courts.Article IV provides for Full Faith and Credit between the various states. In other words, each of the various states shall have equal access to public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state. The Article also insures that the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of the several states and, similarly, provides that a person fleeing justice in one state shall not escape the imposition of his or her sentence by fleeing to another state. The states, in other words, shall respect and enforce each other’s laws and penalties. Article IV insures that each state shall be assured a “Republican” form of government and that the United States shall protect each state from foreign enemies or invasion. Lastly, the Article asserts the conditions under which new states may be added to the union. This Article is, essentially, the glue of nationhood.Article V details the procedures to be implemented in proposing and adopting Amendments to the Constitution.Article VI establishes the supremacy of the laws of the Unites States as the “supreme law of the land.” It also calls for a formal “Oath of Affirmation” from various representatives of government to support the Constitution and states that a “religious test” shall never be required as qualification for office.Article VII holds only that in order to adopt this Constitution nine of then-13 states must ratify it.Although collectively, they have tremendous sweep, they are a marvel of brevity. If laid out in their entirety, they would constitute only several pages of text. Although the requirements of this column necessarily dictate abbreviation, a thorough reading of the Articles may surprise you. What’s laid out here is the skeleton; what remains is only flesh. Considering the consequences of its adoption, both for this nation and the rest of the freedom-loving world, the Constitution is blissfully concise and its very brevity has led, in part, to the centuries of debate and interpretation.Next up – the Bill of Rights.Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7 on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org.