16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Federal Income Tax (1913)

16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Federal Income Tax (1913)

Far-reaching in its social as well as its economic impact, the income tax amendment became part of the Constitution by a curious series of events culminating in a bit of political maneuvering that went awry.

The financial requirements of the Civil War prompted the first American income tax in 1861. At first, Congress placed a flat 3-percent tax on all incomes over $800 and later modified this principle to include a graduated tax. Congress repealed the income tax in 1872, but the concept did not disappear.

After the Civil War, the growing industrial and financial markets of the eastern United States generally prospered. But the farmers of the south and west suffered from low prices for their farm products, while they were forced to pay high prices for manufactured goods. Throughout the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s, farmers formed such political organizations as the Grange, the Greenback Party, the National Farmers’ Alliance, and the People’s (Populist) Party. All of these groups advocated many reforms (see the Interstate Commerce Act) considered radical for the times, including a graduated income tax.

In 1894, as part of a high tariff bill, Congress enacted a 2-percent tax on income over $4,000. The tax was almost immediately struck down by a five-to-four decision of the Supreme Court, even though the Court had upheld the constitutionality of the Civil War tax as recently as 1881. Although farm organizations denounced the Court’s decision as a prime example of the alliance of government and business against the farmer, a general return of prosperity around the turn of the century softened the demand for reform. Democratic Party Platforms under the leadership of three-time Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, however, consistently included an income tax plank, and the progressive wing of the Republican Party also espoused the concept.

In 1909 progressives in Congress again attached a provision for an income tax to a tariff bill. Conservatives, hoping to kill the idea for good, proposed a constitutional amendment enacting such a tax; they believed an amendment would never received ratification by three-fourths of the states. Much to their surprise, the amendment was ratified by one state legislature after another, and on February 25, 1913, with the certification by Secretary of State Philander C. Knox, the 16th amendment took effect. Yet in 1913, due to generous exemptions and deductions, less than 1 percent of the population paid income taxes at the rate of only 1 percent of net income.

This document settled the constitutional question of how to tax income and, by so doing, effected dramatic changes in the American way of life.

15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870)

15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870)

To former abolitionists and to the Radical Republicans in Congress who fashioned Reconstruction after the Civil War, the 15th amendment, enacted in 1870, appeared to signify the fulfillment of all promises to African Americans. Set free by the 13th amendment, with citizenship guaranteed by the 14th amendment, black males were given the vote by the 15th amendment. From that point on, the freedmen were generally expected to fend for themselves. In retrospect, it can be seen that the 15th amendment was in reality only the beginning of a struggle for equality that would continue for more than a century before African Americans could begin to participate fully in American public and civic life.

African Americans exercised the franchise and held office in many Southern states through the 1880s, but in the early 1890s, steps were taken to ensure subsequent “white supremacy.” Literacy tests for the vote, “grandfather clauses” excluding from the franchise all whose ancestors had not voted in the 1860s, and other devices to disenfranchise African Americans were written into the constitutions of former Confederate states. Social and economic segregation were added to black America’s loss of political power. In 1896 the Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson legalized “separate but equal” facilities for the races. For more than 50 years, the overwhelming majority of African American citizens were reduced to second-class citizenship under the “Jim Crow” segregation system. During that time, African Americans sought to secure their rights and improve their position through organizations such as National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Urban League and through the individual efforts of reformers like Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, and A. Philip Randolph.

The most direct attack on the problem of African American disfranchisement came in 1965. Prompted by reports of continuing discriminatory voting practices in many Southern states, President Lyndon B. Johnson, himself a southerner, urged Congress on March 15, 1965, to pass legislation “which will make it impossible to thwart the 15th amendment.” He reminded Congress that “we cannot have government for all the people until we first make certain it is government of and by all the people.” The Voting Rights Act of 1965, extended in 1970, 1975, and 1982, abolished all remaining deterrents to exercising the franchise and authorized Federal supervision of voter registration where necessary.


14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Civil Rights (1868)

Following the Civil War, Congress submitted to the states three amendments as part of its Reconstruction program to guarantee equal civil and legal rights to black citizens. The major provision of the 14th amendment was to grant citizenship to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States,” thereby granting citizenship to former slaves. Another equally important provision was the statement that “nor shall any state deprive any person of live, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The right to due process of law and equal protection of the law now applied to both the Federal and state governments. On June 16, 1866, the House Joint Resolution proposing the 14th amendment to the Constitution was submitted to the states. On July 28, 1868, the 14th amendment was declared, in a certificate of the Secretary of State, ratified by the necessary 28 of the 37 States, and became part of the supreme law of the land.

Congressman John A. Bingham of Ohio, the primary author of the first section of the 14th amendment, intended that the amendment also nationalize the Federal Bill of Rights by making it binding upon the states. Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan, introducing the amendment, specifically stated that the privileges and immunities clause would extend to the states “the personal rights guaranteed and secured by the first eight amendments.” He was, however, alone in this assertion. Most senators argued that the privileges and immunities clause did not bind the states to the Federal Bill of Rights.

Not only did the 14th amendment fail to extend the Bill of Rights to the states; it also failed to protect the rights of black citizens. One legacy of Reconstruction was the determined struggle of black and white citizens to make the promise of the 14th amendment a reality. Citizens petitioned and initiated court cases, Congress enacted legislation, and the executive branch attempted to enforce measures that would guard all citizens’ rights. While these citizens did not succeed in empowering the 14th amendment during the Reconstruction, they effectively articulated arguments and offered dissenting opinions that would be the basis for change in the 20th century.

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Slavery (1865)

The 13th amendment, which formally abolished slavery in the United States, passed the Senate on April 8, 1864, and the House on January 31, 1865. On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures. The necessary number of states ratified it by December 6, 1865. The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

In 1863 President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Nonetheless, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation. Lincoln recognized that the Emancipation Proclamation would have to be followed by a constitutional amendment in order to guarantee the abolishment of slavery.

The 13th amendment was passed at the end of the Civil War before the Southern states had been restored to the Union and should have easily passed the Congress. Although the Senate passed it in April 1864, the House did not. At that point, Lincoln took an active role to ensure passage through congress. He insisted that passage of the 13th amendment be added to the Republican Party platform for the upcoming Presidential elections. His efforts met with success when the House passed the bill in January 1865 with a vote of 119–56.

With the adoption of the 13th amendment, the United States found a final constitutional solution to the issue of slavery. The 13th amendment, along with the 14th and 15th, is one of the trio of Civil War amendments that greatly expanded the civil rights of Americans.


A father passing by his son’s bedroom  was astonished to see
that his  bed was nicely made and everything was picked up. Then he saw
an envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow that was addressed
to “Dad”. With the worst premonition he opened the envelope with trembling hands and read the letter.

Dear Dad:

It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend
because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom and you. I have been finding
real passion with Stacy and she is so nice.  But I knew you
would not approve of her because of all her piercing’s, tattoos, tight
motorcycle clothes and the fact that she is much older than I am.

But it’s not only the passion…

Dad she’s pregnant.  Stacy said that we will be very happy.

She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood
for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children.

Stacy has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana
doesn’t really hurt anyone. We’ll be growing it for ourselves and
trading it with the other people that live nearby for cocaine
and ecstasy. In the meantime we will pray that science
will  find a cure for AIDS so that Stacy can get better.
She deserves it.  Don’t worry Dad. I’m 15, and I know how to take care
of  myself. Someday I’m sure that we will be back to visit so
that you can get to know your grandchildren.

Your Son, John

PS. Dad, none of the above is true. I’m over at Tommy’s  house.

I just wanted to remind you that there are worse
things in life than a report card, that’s in my center desk drawer I
love you. Call me when it’s safe to come home.

University Grading Policy

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University Grading Policy


Here are ways that college professors grade their final exams:


All grades are plotted along the normal bell curve.


Students are asked to blot ink in their exam books, close them and turn

them in. The professor opens the books and assigns the first grade that

comes to mind.


All students get the same grade they got last year.


What is a grade?


Students are asked to defend their position of why they should receive an A.


Grades are variable.


If and only if the student is present for the final and the student has

accumulated a passing grade then the student will receive an A else the

student will not receive an A.


Random number generator determines grade.


Each student must figure out his grade by listening to the instructor play the corresponding note (+ and – would be sharp and flat respectively).


Everybody gets an A.



Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead,

the best strategy is to dismount. However, in government they often try other

strategies with dead horses, including the following;

Buying a bigger whip,

Changing riders.

Saying things- like “This is the way we always have ridden horse.”

Appointing a committee to study the horse.

Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.

Increasing the standards to ride dead horses.

Appointing a tiger team to revive the dead horse.

Creating a training session to increase our riding ability.

Passing legislation declaring that “This horse is not dead.”

Blaming the horse’s parents.

Harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed.

Declaring that “No horse is too dead to beat.”

Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.

Doing a cost analysis study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.

Declaring the horse is “better, faster and cheaper” dead.

Forming a quality committee to find uses for dead horses.

Revisiting the performance requirements for horses.

Revisting the performance requirements for horses.

Saying this horse was procured with cost as an independent variable.

Blaming the horse farm on which it was born.

Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Top Ten Excuses


Top Ten Excuses

10. I’m Sorry

9. My mom’s going to call you.

8. The printer didn’t work.

7. The computer is down.

6. I told you…

5. You wanted it today?

4. No one told me…

3. It’s not my job…

2. I forgot…

1. I was going to but…

New #1. My bad!

Top Ten Things You Can Do With Algebra:


Top Ten Things You Can Do With Algebra:

10.    Get to the root of a problem
9.    Climb life’s steepest slope
8.    Learn how to function better
7.    Deal with the world on your terms
6.    Broaden the range of your skills
5.    Fight inequality
4.    Take it to the highest degree
3.    Improve your relations
2.    Maneuver through variable terrain
1.    Become master of your domain

The Ten Commandments of Math


The Ten Commandments of Math

1.    Thou shall not divide by zero.

2.    Thou shall not put other textbooks before thee in math class.

3.    Thou shall show thy work; check thy work and confirm that thy results are reasonable.

4.    Remember thy test days and prepare for them diligently.

5.    Thou shalt honor the correct order of operations.

6.    Thou shalt not do thy math papers in ink!

7.    Thou shalt commit the facts of arithmetic to memory.

8.    Thou shalt do unto one side of an equation what thou doest to the other.

9.    Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy original problems; thou shall copy thy problems accurately and legibly.

10.   Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s paper, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.