US Constitution - Article I, Section 9

Constitutional Restrictions on the Legislative Branch

Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution places limits on the powers of Congress, the Legislative Branch. These restrictions include those on limiting the slave trade, suspending civil and legal protections of citizens, apportionment of direct taxes, and granting titles of nobility. It also prevents government employees and officials from accepting foreign gifts and titles, known as emoluments.

Article I - The Legislative Branch - Section 9

Clause 1: Importation of Slaves

"Clause 1: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person."

Explanation: This clause relates to the slave trade. It prevented Congress from restricting the importation of slaves prior to 1808. It did allow Congress to levy a duty of up to 10 dollars for each slave. In 1807, the international slave trade was blocked and no more slaves were allowed to be imported into the US.

Clause 2: Habeas Corpus

"Clause 2: The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

Explanation: Habeas corpus is the right to only be held in jail if there are specific, legitimate charges filed against you in court.

You can't be detained indefinitely without legal process. This was suspended during the Civil War and for detainees in the War on ​Terror held at Guantanamo Bay.

Clause 3: Bills of Attainder and Ex Post Facto Laws

"Clause 3: No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."

Explanation: A bill of attainder is a way that a legislature acts as a judge and jury, declaring that a person or group of people are guilty of a crime and stating the punishment.

An ex post ​facto law criminalizes acts retroactively, allowing people to be prosecuted for acts that weren't illegal at the time they did them.

Clause 4-7: Taxes and Congressional Spending

"Clause 4: No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken."

"Clause 5: No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State."

"Clause 6: No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another."

"Clause 7: No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time."

Explanation: These clauses set limits on how taxes can be levied. Originally, an income tax would not have been allowed, but this was authorized by the 16th Amendment in 1913. These clauses prevent taxes from being levied on trade between states. Congress must pass tax legislation in order to spend the public money and they must show how they have spent the money.

Clause 8: Titles of Nobility and Emoluments

"Clause 8: No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."

Explanation: Congress can't make you a Duke, Earl, or even a Marquis. If you are a civil servant or elected official, you can't accept anything from a foreign government or official, including an honorary title or an office. This clause prevents any government official from receiving foreign gifts without the permission of Congress.