Constitutional Curiosities: A Twenty-One Question Scavenger Hunt

By Chen, Jim | Constitutional Commentary, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Constitutional Curiosities: A Twenty-One Question Scavenger Hunt


Chen, Jim, Constitutional Commentary


This exercise is intended to make reading the Constitution a little livelier. All answers to the questions below may be had by consulting the text of the United States Constitution.

1. Of which state are you a citizen?

2. Are you eligible for the House of Representatives? The Senate? The Presidency? If not, why not?

3. Bill Dodge, son of two United States citizens, was born in Niger during his parents' African travels. Ousseini Abdoulaye was born in Niger on the very same day; Ousseini's parents, however, were citizens of Niger. Ousseini later moves to the United States and becomes a United States citizen. Assume that both Bill and Ousseini are 40 years old and have lived in the United States for at least last 20 years. Is either Bill or Ousseini eligible to serve as President?

4. The original Constitution contemplated the continuation of slavery in those states that permitted slavery as of 1787. Find the first instance of the word "slave" or "slavery" in the Constitution. If you don't find either of these words in the original Constitution, what are the hints that the original Constitution contemplated and tolerated slavery?

5. Assume that the free population of South Carolina in 1850 was 1 million, that its slave population was 500,000, and that its untaxed Indian population was 100,000. For purposes of determining South Carolina's representation in the House and direct tax obligations to the federal government, what was the population of South Carolina?

6. The Constitution refers to only three types of unlawful behavior, and a fourth may be inferred from the text of a general prohibition. Name all four.

7. Does the Constitution contemplate capital punishment? Where? Which provision or provisions would you invoke if you wished to attack the constitutionality of the death penalty?

8. What is the only use of the word "right" in the original Constitution?

9. When is Inauguration Day? Is it the same as the first day of a new congressional term?

10. What is the maximum time anyone may serve as President?

11. What is the only part of the Constitution that may never be amended?

12. Speaking of amendments, name the commercial activity that the Framers of the Constitution declared off-limits to regulation via constitutional amendment until 1808 (i.e., 21 years after the framing of the original Constitution).

13. Still speaking of amendments, how can they be made? (Name two methods.)

14. Jose and Maria Nazarena are citizens of El Salvador. They enter the United States illegally. Maria then gives birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Consulting only the Constitution, name one country of which Jesus is a citizen.

15. In a fit of pique, the President decides to skip this year's State of the Union address. As White House legal counsel, what do you advise?

16. In a fit of pique (probably provoked by the flap over the State of the Union address), the House begins debating a bill to cut the President's pay and Supreme Court Justices' pay. As counsel to the Speaker of the House, what do you advise?

17. Before 1913, who chose Senators? After 19137

18. Rose Perot, a candidate for the House of Representatives, plans to issue a campaign promise to oppose any Supreme Court nominee who will not commit to upholding a woman's right to abortion. As Rose's campaign manager, do you run the ad? (Base your answer strictly on your interpretation of the Constitution, not on any political considerations.)

19. Jessie Ventura-Boulevard ultimately defeats Rose Perot in a hotly contested race for Congress. The victorious Jessie now represents Texas in the House of Representatives. Her political "lone star" having risen swiftly, she now seeks a national political platform. She would like to be the running mate of her fellow Texan, Governor George W. Shrub, the Reform Party nominee for President.

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