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Know Your Rights: A Breakdown of the Constitutional Amendments #15-20

Posted by Justin on

The Constitution, alongside outlining the structure and regulations of our government, also contains a breakdown of individual citizens’ rights. 

From the Bill of Rights (which contains the original 10 Amendments) and onward, each Amendment is important to know, so you fully understand your rights when push comes to shove. 

Here, we break down these latter Amendments at a glance, so you’ve got a quick reference guide if ever you need to call upon it:


Amendment 15

The 15th Amendment, which came about after the Civil War, was added to make sure that southern states could not prevent former slaves from voting.

This amendment is broken up into two parts:

  • The first states that citizens of the US can vote regardless of their race, color, or any previous condition of servitude.
  • The second part states that Congress can enforce this article by any appropriate legislation.

This essentially guaranteed that both former slaves and descendants of former African-American slaves would be assured of their right to vote regardless of local or state attitudes.

Ultimately, this amendment was crucial to ensure that new American citizens that were once slaves could vote as legal members of society.

Unfortunately, this amendment had to be assisted by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 later on before it was really effective.

Amendment 16

The 16th Amendment was created in order to clear up some confusion regarding taxation rights.

In 1894, a Supreme Court case (Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., to be precise) claimed that income taxes on property were the equivalent of direct taxes. These are prohibited by the Constitution.

This controversial amendment allowed Congress to "have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived". It essentially closed a taxation loophole.

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Amendment 17

The 17th Amendment made some changes to the election of Senators.

Before this amendment was adopted in 1913, each senator (of which each state gets two) was elected by state legislatures.

When the 17th Amendment was passed, it changed this process so that each senator was elected by the people directly. This is why we now vote for Senators the same way we vote for the president of the United States.

Amendment 18

The 18th Amendment effectively banned alcohol from the US.

It was broken into three parts:

  • The manufacturing, sale, or transportation of any intoxicating liquors was banned from the US and any of its territories.
  • Congress and various states could enforce the article by any appropriate legislation.
  • The article was inoperative unless it was ratified as an Amendment (which it was, eventually!)

Amendment 19

The 19th Amendment was the result of decades of women’s suffrage movements.

It prevented citizens of the United States from being denied the right to vote on account of their sex.

This ended sex-based voter discrimination and kicked off a movement of gender equality. 

Amendment 20

The 20th amendment, ratified in 1933, set both beginning and ending dates for executive and congressional terms.

For example, it decreed that Congress had to assemble at least once every year.

It also decreed that the terms of the current president and vice president would always end at noon on the 20th day of January.

As you can see, each of the above Amendments served a specific purpose.

Perhaps in the future, we’ll even have new Amendments to analyze!


Thank you for reading, stay strong patriots.

Justin | Right Wing Gear
Maine, USA

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