Other Amendments to the Constitution

In addition to the Bill of Rights, the United States Constitution has been amended seventeen times. The first additional amendment was made in 1795 and the last in 1992. Only one amendment to the Constitution has been repealed — the eighteenth, which prohibited the production, sale, or transportation of alcohol.

Like the Bill of Rights, over the years some amendments have loomed larger in importance than others:

  • Thirteenth Amendment. Ratified in December of 1865, it freed all slaves and abolished slavery in the United States and its territories. Former slaves were given the same rights as other citizens.

  • Fourteenth Amendment. Ratified in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment is both the longest and most frequently cited amendment in constitutional law. Initially passed to protect the rights of former slaves, over time the Fourteenth Amendment has evolved to mean that all citizens are subject to due process and equal protection of the laws.

  • Fifteenth Amendment. Ratified in 1870, it states that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” It wasn't until the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, however, that true voting rights were established for all Americans.

  • Sixteenth Amendment. Ratified in 1913, it overturned an 1894 Supreme Court decision that held income taxes to be unconstitutional. Essentially, this amendment allows Congress to tax income without apportioning the revenues evenly among the states.

  • Nineteenth Amendment. Ratified just prior to the 1920 presidential election, it gave women the right to vote in state and federal elections. The amendment was first proposed in 1878, and came before Congress eight times before finally winning passage. A few states — Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado — allowed women to vote prior to the Nineteenth Amendment, but the majority did not.

  • Twenty-second Amendment. Ratified in 1951, it prohibited presidents from serving more than two elected terms. It also stipulates that if a president succeeds to office after the halfway point of his predecessor's term, he can serve two more elected terms (for a total of ten years in office). This amendment was a direct response to Franklin Roosevelt's four terms in office, which many legislators considered excessive and somewhat reckless.

  • Twenty-fifth Amendment. Ratified in 1967, it established that the president can appoint a vice president (subject to a majority vote of Congress) when the office becomes vacant. Prior to that, the office remained vacant for the entire term.

  • Twenty-sixth Amendment. Ratified in 1971, it established that citizens who are eighteen years of age or older cannot be denied the right to vote in federal or state elections by virtue of age. This amendment was largely a response to discontent stemming from the Vietnam War, during which thousands of teenagers died on the battlefield.

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