Timeline Description: The United States Constitution is considered the law of the land. It is the oldest constitution in the world, although it has been amended several times since it was created in 1787. Amending the Constitution requires approval from both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states.
|December 15, 1791||The first ten amendments to the Constitution go into effect.
The Bill of Rights, containing the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, is enacted. The amendments are based on the English Bill of Rights and protect individual liberties such as the freedom of expression, the right to bear arms, and the right to a fairy and speedy trial.
|March 2, 1861||The Corwin Amendment, which would preserve slavery, is passed by Congress.
A month before the Civil War begins, Thomas Corwin of Ohio introduces an amendment to keep slavery legal in the United States. Congress passes the amendment but it did not make it through the state legislatures, partially because southern states had left the Union.
|December 6, 1865||The 13th Amendment abolishes slavery.
The first Reconstruction amendment goes into effect eight months after the Civil War ends. The 13th Amendment outlaws slavery in the United States.
|July 9, 1868||The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to anyone born or naturalized in the U.S.
The second Reconstruction amendment, the 14th, guarantees citizenship and due process of the law to anyone born or naturalized in the U.S. This overturns the Dred Scott Decision, which said that African Americans could never be citizens.
|February 3, 1870||The 15th Amendment prohibits the denial of voting rights based on race or prior status as a slave.
The 15th Amendment, the third Reconstruction amendment, grants voting rights, regardless of race. This has the effect of giving all African American males, including former slaves, the right to vote. Women are neither specifically granted nor denied voting privileges.
|February 3, 1913||The 16th Amendment gives the federal government the right to tax American incomes.
The 16th Amendment grants the federal government the right to collect income tax on individual incomes. It is not the first time. During the Civil War, Americans paid income tax but the tax was repealed after 10 years.
|April 8, 1913||The 17th Amendment gives voters the opportunity to select senators by popular vote.
Voters are given the right to elect state senators in a popular election when the 17th Amendment goes into effect. Prior to this, state legislatures selected the senators, a policy which angered many voters.
|January 16, 1919||The Prohibition Era begins when the 18th Amendment goes into effect.
Pressure from religious leaders and anti-saloon lobbyists leads to the ban on alcohol. The 18th Amendment remains in effect for 14 years, but proves to be very difficult to enforce.
|August 18, 1920||Women are guaranteed the right to vote in all states with the 19th Amendment.
After decades of fighting for the right to vote in all states, the 19th Amendment goes into effect, establishing women's suffrage. Many of the women who fought for women's suffrage do not live to see this day.
|December 5, 1933||The 21st Amendment ends Prohibition.
When the 21st Amendment goes into effect, the 18th Amendment is repealed and Prohibition is over. Difficulty with enforcement due to the boom in speakeasies and the rise of organized crime led to the end of the 18th Amendment.
|February 27, 1951||The 22nd Amendment limits presidents to two four-year terms.
Five years after Franklin Roosevelt dies in his fourth term in office, the 22nd Amendment goes into effect. The amendment states that a person cannot be elected president more than two times and that someone who serves more than two years of another president's term can only be re-elected once.
|March 29, 1961||Citizens of the nation's capital are given the right to vote in presidential elections with the 23rd Amendment.
Because Washington, D.C. is not a state, its citizens were not permitted to vote in presidential elections. That changed when the 23rd Amendment went into effect in 1961 and in 1964, residents of the nation's capital were allowed to vote in the presidential election.
|January 23, 1964||Poll taxes are abolished with the 24th Amendment.
The 24th Amendment outlaws the use of poll taxes. The use of poll taxes, or a fee charged for the ability to vote, was a common tactic used in the South to prevent African Americans from voting.
|July 1, 1971||The voting age in America is lowered to 18 years with the 26th Amendment.
When the federal government began to draft young men to serve in the Vietnam War in the 1960s, many Americans argued that it was unfair to ask men who were not even old enough to vote to go to war. Congress responded with the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18.
|March 1972||The Equal Rights Amendment is passed by Congress.
The Equal Rights Amendment, which was originally written in 1923, is passed by Congress. However, conservative opponents of the amendment that would guarantee equal rights for women mobilize enough support to prevent it from making it through the state legislatures.