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Constitutional Rights and Wrongs – Part I

By Donald E. Knebel on October 29, 2013 in Civic Blog

            People often support their political claims by referring to the United States Constitution. Some of the claims suggest their makers either have not read the Constitution or have not read it very carefully.  You can test your own knowledge of what the Constitution actually says by taking this True/False test.  The questions become harder toward the end, where you will find both the answers and a way to score your own constitutional literacy.9875757_l

1.         True or False – The Constitution guarantees citizens freedom from taxation without representation.

2.         True or False – The Constitution includes the phrase “In God We Trust.”

3.         True or False – When Presidents are impeached, they are then removed from office.

4.         True or False – The Constitution states that “all men are created equal.”

5.         True or False – The Constitution sanctions the overthrow of the government by force if the people are no longer served by it.

6.         True or False – The Constitution expressly gives Congress the power to levy taxes to provide for the general welfare.

7.         True or False – Under the Constitution, members of Congress must be natural born citizens.

8.         True or False – Prior to the Civil War, the Constitution imposed limits only on the power of the federal government and did not impose limits on the power of State governments.

9.         True or False – Under the Constitution as originally adopted, slaves were not to be counted for purposes of determining the number of representatives a state would send to Congress.

10.       True or False – Under the Constitution as originally adopted, members of the House of Representatives were to be appointed by State legislatures.

11.       True or False – Under the Constitution as amended, the Electoral College can elect both a President and a Vice President from the same State.

12.       True or False – If no candidates for President and Vice President receive a majority of the votes cast by members of the Electoral College, the President and Vice President are chosen by the House of Representatives.

13.       True or False – The Constitution cannot be amended unless legislatures in at least three fourths of the States ratify the amendment.

14.       True or False – An amendment to the Constitution cannot eliminate the requirement that each State has two senators.

15.       True or False – Under the Constitution as amended, a President can be elected three times if he or she sits out at least four years before being elected the third time.


1.         False.   Although the resistance to taxation without representation was one of the rallying cries behind the American Revolution, there is nothing in the Constitution dealing with this subject.

2.         False.  There is no mention of God or any higher power in the text of the Constitution.  The recited date of its approval at the Constitutional Convention includes the phrase “the Year of our Lord,” the equivalent of today’s “A.D.”

3.         False.   Impeachment is merely the bringing of a charge by the House of Representatives.  Article I, Section 2.         The President is removed from office only if convicted of that charge by the Senate.  Article I, Section 3; Article II, Section 4.

4.         False.   That phrase appears in the Declaration of Independence, but not in the Constitution.  The 14th Amendment guarantees to all persons within the jurisdiction of a state “equal protection of the laws.”

5.         False.  Although that idea is suggested by the Declaration of Independence, “levying war against” the United States is punishable as treason under the Constitution.  Article III, Section 3.

6.         True.  The Constitution gives Congress the power to collect taxes to “provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States.”  Article I, Section 8.

7.         False.  Senators and Representatives can be naturalized citizens so long as they have been citizens the requisite of amount of time before being elected.  Article I, Sections and 3.

8.         False.  Although the 14th Amendment imposed further restrictions on States, the Constitution as originally adopted imposed numerous restrictions on States.  Article I, Section 10; Article IV, Sections 1 and 2.

9.         False.  Under the Constitution as originally adopted, slaves were effectively counted as three-fifths of a person.  “Indians not taxed” were not counted at all.  Article I, Section 2.  

10.       False.  Under the Constitution as originally adopted, Senators were chosen by State legislatures, but Representatives were chosen by the people.  Article I, Sections 2 and 3.

11.       True.  Although individual electors are barred from voting for a President and Vice President from the same State, nothing in the 12th Amendment  precludes the possibility that the Presidential candidate and Vice Presidential candidate obtaining the most votes from electors could come from the same State.

12.       False.  Under the 12th Amendment, only the President is chosen by the House of Representatives if no candidate receives a majority of the votes of the Electoral College.  The Vice President in such a situation is chosen by the Senate.

13.       False.  If Congress specifies that ratification of an amendment can be made by conventions, a proposed amendment is effective when conventions in three-fourth of the States ratify it.  Article V.

14.       False.  Under Article V, the number of senators each State has can be changed so long as the resulting number is the same for all States.   In addition, a State can consent to a change in its number of senators even if the result creates differences among States.

15.       False.  Under the 22nd Amendment, a person can be elected President only twice.


Questions 1 to 5:  One point for each correct answer

Questions 6 to 10:  Two points for each correct answer

Questions 11 to 15:  Three points for each correct answer

0 to 9:  You could have done better guessing

10 to 19:  You are an educated American with some knowledge of the Constitution

20 to 29:  You are constitutionally literate.

30:   You are either a constitutional scholar or you looked at the answers first.