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Know Your Rights: Breakdown of Article 1 of the Constitution

Posted by Justin on

Americans live in the greatest country in the world. But far too few of us actually know our rights, let alone when they’re being infringed.

To better understand your government and your rights if you ever need to defend them, let’s break down the First Article of the U.S. Constitution.

It’s separated into 10 major sections, as follows:

Section 1

Section 1 is very straightforward: it establishes the name and format of Congress, and states that it is comprised of two parts (collectively called a bicameral body).

Section 2

Section 2 defines the first division of Congress - the House of Representatives - as well as laying out the requirements for the representatives that comprise it.

These requirements include:

  • An age limit of 25 years 
  • Representatives are elected for 2 years each 
  • Representatives are divided proportionately among the states (i.e. more populous states get more representatives) 
  • The Speaker of the House is the leader of the House of Representatives and is chosen by the members

Section 3

Section 3 deals with the Senate, as well as outlining requirements for future Senators.

These requirements include:

  • An age limit of 30 years
  • A term limit of 6 years each
  • Originally, Senators were appointed by individual state legislatures, though this was changed with a future amendment
  • Each state gets two Senators each, regardless of population
  • The Vice President serves as the leader of the Senate

Section 4

Section 4 dictates that every state can establish its own methods for electing different members of Congress.

However, it also mandates that Congress has to meet at least once per year (though this is always much more frequent).

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Section 5

Next is Section 5, which dictates requirements for Congressional meetings.

In brief these requirements are as follows:

  • A minimum number of members have to be present for Congress to officially meet
  • Fines can be set for any members that don’t show up
  • Congressmembers can be expelled
  • The House and Senate must both keep journals to record their proceedings and votes
  • Neither house can adjourn without getting the permission of the other

Section 6

Section 6 concerns other rules for Congress members, including their salary levels and a provision against detainment if they are traveling to and from Congress.

It also stipulates that they can’t hold any other governmental office wall by serving in either house of Congress.

Section 7

Section 7, meanwhile, focuses on how Bills actually become Laws:

  • First, any bill concerned with raising money, such as tax bills, have to start in the House of Representatives. 
  • Any bill has to pass both houses of Congress in the same form with no different language or provisions. 
  • Bills must be passed by both houses to reach the President’s desk.
  • The President can sign the bill (which makes it a law), or veto the bill (which sends it back to Congress).
  • Congress can override a Presidential veto with a two-thirds majority vote, making the bill a law anyway. 
  • If the President doesn’t veto or sign a bill, it automatically becomes a law after 10 days.

Section 8

Section 8 lists various powers awarded to Congress.

These include:

  • The ability to establish and maintain a military. 
  • The ability to establish post offices and create courts. 
  • The ability to regulate commerce between states.
  • The ability to declare war. 
  • The ability to raise money.

Section 9

Section 9 of Article 1 places various limitations on Congress.

For instance, no noble titles (such as Prince, King, or similar) can be established by the US government.

Furthermore, no law can give preference to a single state over another, and money cannot be taken by the treasury unless the reasons for doing so have already passed via law.

Lastly, the suspension of habeas corpus and ex post facto laws are prohibited from being applied to Congressmembers. Basically, Congressional staff are protected from unlawful or indefinite imprisonment, plus they're also exempt from being retroactively charged for previous acts that have recently become criminal due to a change in legislation. 

Section 10

The final part of Article 1 is Section 10, which sets limitations on the states.

For instance, states can’t create their own money or declare war individually.

They also can’t execute any of the actions explicitly awarded to Congress in Section 9.

It also stipulates that states cannot tax goods that are imported from other states, either.

This rough breakdown of all the stipulations in Article 1 of our Constitution will have hopefully shone some light on the workings of our government.

With this greater understanding of the document that outlines all the laws we live by each day, we know exactly where we stand.

Education is power, and we have what it takes to stay ahead of knowing our rights, so as citizens of this free country we can defend them if need be.

Thank you for reading, stay strong patriots.   

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1 comment

  • Great article!!! Art you going to be doing similar articles on the rest of the Constitution?
    I do have another question. If states cannot tax goods imported from another state, how is it that as a Minnesotan I pay tax on things that I but from So.Dak, or many other states?

    Nicholas Holmes on

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