Brief U.S. History Quiz, from United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


Here is a brief history quiz about the Constitution and the American people. The facts are contained in a United States of America report dated August 8, 1994 and submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Here are a few questions from the Introduction and Provisions. The answer is found in the specific (paragraph #) at the end of the question.

1. What is the supreme law of the land? (#1) 2. Why was the Constitution created? (#2) 3. Why was the federal government established by the Constitution? (#3) 4. Why are the state constitutions and laws limited? (#6) 5. To whom does the U.S. Constitution apply? (#7) 6. What obliges the federal government to guarantee every State a "Republican Form of Government"? (#9) 7. Are Americans (state citizens) free people or U.S. Citizens? (#9) 8. Who are U.S. Citizens? (#12) 9. Who are U.S. nationals? (#18) 10. How is the term "alien" defined? (#18)

Initial reports of States parties due in 1993 : United States of America. 24/08/94. CCPR/C/81/Add.4. (State Party Report)

Convention Abbreviation: CCPR HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE


Initial reports of States parties due in 1993



* The information submitted by the United States of America in accordance with the consolidated guidelines concerning the initial part of reports of States parties is contained in the core document HRI/CORE/1/Add.49.

[29 July 1994] CONTENTS


Introduction 1 - 8


Article 1 - Self determination 9 - 76

Article 2 - Equal protection of rights in the Covenant 77 - 100

Article 3 - Equal rights of men and women 101 - 109

Article 4 - States of emergency 110 - 127

Article 5 - Non-derogable nature of fundamental rights 128 - 130

Article 6 - Right to life 131 - 148

Article 7 - Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment 149 - 187

Article 8 - Prohibition of slavery 188 - 202

Article 9 - Liberty and security of person 203 - 258

Article 10 - Treatment of persons deprived of their liberty 259-299

Article 11 - Freedom from imprisonment for breach of contractual obligation 300

Article 12 - Freedom of movement 301 - 311

Article 13 - Expulsion of aliens 312 - 361

Article 14 - Right to fair trial 362 - 507

Article 15 - Prohibition of ex post facto laws 508-512

Article 16 - Recognition as a person under the law 513-514

Article 17 - Freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home 515-544

Article 18 - Freedom of thought, conscience and religion 545-579

Article 19 - Freedom of opinion and expression 580-595

Article 20 - Prohibition of propaganda relating to war or racial, national or religious hatred 596-606

Article 21 - Freedom of assembly 607 - 612

Article 22 - Freedom of association 613 - 654

Article 23 - Protection of the family 655 - 696

Article 24 - Protection of children 697 - 740

Article 25 - Access to the political system 741-819

Article 26 - Equality before the law 820 - 822

Article 27 - The rights of minorities to culture, religion and language 823-849


I. Abbreviations

II. Glossary

III. Ratification of the Covenant by the U.S. Senate


1. The U.S. Constitution is the central instrument of American government and the supreme law of the land. For over 200 years it has guided the evolution of governmental institutions and has provided the basis for political stability, individual freedom, economic growth and social progress. It contains specific guarantees of the most important rights and freedoms necessary to a democratic society. These rights are principally found in the Bill of Rights, which consists of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, adopted in 1791, only 2 years after the Constitution itself was approved. They include, among others, freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly, the right to trial by jury, and a prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. Other significant protections have been added by subsequent amendments. Many of these rights parallel those addressed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. While originally formulated as limitations on the authority of the federal government, these protections have to a great extent been interpreted over time to apply against all forms of government action, including the governments and officials of the 50 constituent states and subordinate governmental entities. The Constitution thus provides binding and effective standards of human rights protection against actions of all levels of government throughout the nation.

2. The Constitution was designed to protect the people against the abuse of authority by distributing the power of the federal government among three separate but co-equal branches (the executive, the legislative and the judicial). Each branch was given specific responsibilities and prerogatives as well as a certain ability to limit or counter the authority of the other two branches. This system of "checks and balances" serves as a guarantee against potential excesses by any one branch.

3. Moreover, the federal government established by the Constitution is a government of limited authority and responsibility. Those powers not delegated to the federal government were specifically reserved to the states and the people. The resulting division of authority, which characterizes the federal system in the United States means that state and local governments exercise significant responsibilities in many areas, including matters such as education, public health, business organization, work conditions, marriage and divorce, the care of children and exercise of the ordinary police power. The prerogatives of the states in this regard are so well established that even two neighbouring states frequently have widely varying laws and practices on the same subjects. Some areas covered by the Covenant fall into this category.

4. For this reason, and because article 50 expressly extends the provisions of the Covenant to all parts of federal states, the United States included in its instrument of ratification an understanding to the effect that the U.S. will carry out its obligations thereunder in a manner consistent with the federal nature of its form of government. More precisely, the understanding states:

"That the United States understands that this Covenant shall be implemented by the Federal Government to the extent that it exercises legislative and judicial jurisdiction over the matters covered therein and otherwise by the state and local governments; to the extent that state and local governments exercise jurisdiction over such matters, the Federal Government shall take measures appropriate to the Federal system to the end that the competent authorities of the state or local governments may take appropriate measures for the fulfilment of the Covenant."

This provision is not a reservation and does not modify or limit the international obligations of the United States under the Covenant. Rather, it addresses the essentially domestic issue of how the Covenant will be implemented within the U.S. federal system. It serves to emphasize domestically that there was no intent to alter the constitutional balance of authority between the federal government on the one hand and the state and local governments on the other, or to use the provisions of the Covenant to federalize matters now within the competence of the states. It also serves to notify other States Parties that the United States will implement its obligations under the Covenant by appropriate legislative, executive and judicial means, federal or state, and that the federal government will remove any federal inhibition to the abilities of the constituent states to meet their obligations in this regard.

5. Although there is a growing body of federal criminal law and procedure, criminal law is still largely a matter of state competence, and the precise rules, procedures and punishments vary from state to state. In all states, however, as well as at the federal level, criminal law and procedure must meet the minimum standards provided by the U.S. Constitution, and those standards apply to all individuals regardless of nationality or citizenship.

6. State constitutions and laws also limit the actions of state and local governmental units and officials in order to secure individual rights. State and local officials must always meet the basic federal constitutional standards. In addition, they must comply with the applicable state and local law, which in many instances provides even greater protection to the individual. Because of the large number of such provisions, this report emphasizes the common federal standards with occasional reference to some state and local provisions.

7. The rights protected by the Covenant are, for the most part, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes. The U.S. Constitution applies to the actions of officials at all levels of government. Some federal laws control only the actions of federal officials and agencies; others apply generally to federal, state and local officials. The differences will be noted where relevant to the discussion of specific articles.

8. In ratifying the Covenant, the United States declared "[T]he provisions of Articles 1 through 27 are not self-executing". This declaration did not limit the international obligations of the United States under the Covenant. Rather, it means that, as a matter of domestic law, the Covenant does not, by itself, create private rights directly enforceable in U.S. courts. As indicated throughout this report, however, the fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the Covenant are already guaranteed as a matter of U.S. law, either by virtue of constitutional protections or enacted statutes, and can be effectively asserted and enforced by individuals in the judicial system on those bases. For this reason it was not considered necessary to adopt special implementing legislation to give effect to the Covenant's provisions in domestic law. In some cases, it was considered necessary to take a substantive reservation to specific provisions of the Covenant, or to clarify the interpretation given to a provision through adoption of an understanding. These reservations and understandings are discussed in the following text under the articles to which they refer.


Article 1 - Self-determination

9. The basic principle of self-determination is at the core of American political life, as the nation was born in a struggle against the colonial regime of the British during the eighteenth century. The right to self-determination, set forth in article 1 of the Covenant, is reflected in Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which obliges the federal government to guarantee to every State a "Republican Form of Government". Implicitly, this article ensures that every state will be governed by popularly elected officials. Similarly, Articles I and II of the Constitution, as amended by the Twelfth, Seventeenth, Twentieth, Twenty-second, and Twenty-third Amendments to the Constitution, and the second clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, describe in detail the manner by which the national government is to be elected. The right to vote in federal, state, and local elections is also implicit, for it is the "essence of a democratic society". Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 555 (1964). The states are permitted to set the qualifications for voting, but the states are limited by the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments from restricting the franchise on the basis of race, colour, previous condition of servitude, sex, failure to pay a poll tax, or for being under any age except 18 years. Hence, the people of the United States are free in law and in practice to determine their "political status" within the structure of the Constitution, and to change the Constitution itself through amendment. There have been 27 such amendments since the founding of the Republic, beginning with the Bill of Rights (Amendments I-X) in 1791.

10. The right to pursue economic and cultural development is not mentioned, in such terms, in the U.S. Constitution, yet it is among the most fundamental principles that define American society. The essential civil and political rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Covenant, and a free market economy, provide the basis for free and liberal pursuit of economic or cultural development, with virtually no restraint save for those necessary to protect public safety and welfare.

11. Property rights are specifically protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which guarantee that neither the states nor the federal government may deprive one of property without due process or take property for public use without fair compensation. The Constitution does not, however, protect persons or corporations from reasonable economic regulation by both the states and the federal government. Cultural life, on the other hand, is generally protected by the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and association which are very broadly construed, as discussed below in connection with Articles 18, 19, 21 and 22.

The Insular Areas

12. The United States includes a number of Insular Areas, each of which is unique and constitutes an integral part of the U.S. political family. Persons born in these areas are U.S. citizens (U.S. nationals in the case of American Samoa). Local residents, including U.S. citizens born elsewhere who have moved to these areas, elect their own local governments and make and are ruled by their own local laws. They are free to move to other parts of the United States and enjoy the protections for individual liberty that the Bill of Rights guarantees to all Americans. Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Puerto Rico each are represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by an elected delegate. Other than the right to vote on the final passage of a bill or resolution, the delegate from each Insular Area enjoys the same privileges and exercises the same powers as a member of Congress from one of the states.

13. The United States considers Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa as still "non-self-governing" for purposes of Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations. Although these areas are in fact self-governing at the local level, as described below, they have not yet completed the process of achieving self-determination. By contrast, the States of Alaska and Hawaii, as well as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, all of which used to be "non-self-governing" for purposes of Article 73, have completed acts of self-determination through which they have resolved the terms of their respective relationships with the rest of the United States. Similarly, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, all of which were once part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, have completed the process of self-determination.

14. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The largest and most populous of the U.S. Insular Areas, Puerto Rico was acquired by the United States in 1899 after the Spanish-American War. Between 1900 and 1950, Congress provided for the governance of Puerto Rico through Organic Acts. In 1950, Congress enacted legislation which authorized Puerto Rico to organize its own government and adopt a constitution. Puerto Rico did so, and its constitution became effective on 25 July 1952, at which time Puerto Rico achieved the status of a Commonwealth of the United States. Since then, the question of Puerto Rico's relationship to the United States has continued to be a matter of public debate and discussion. Most recently, the people of Puerto Rico expressed their views in a public referendum in November 1993; continuation of the current commonwealth arrangement received the greatest support, although nearly as many votes were cast in favour of statehood. By contrast, a small minority of some 5 per cent chose independence.

15. Guam. Guam was acquired by the United States in 1899 after the Spanish-American War and, with the exception of the period of occupation during the Second World War, was administered by the Navy until 1950. In 1950, Congress enacted the Guam Organic Act, providing for the civil government of Guam. 48 U.S.C. sections 1421-1425. It includes a Bill of Rights that parallels the guarantees of individual liberty in the Constitution and it grants U.S. citizenship to the people of Guam. Since 1968, the executive branch of Guam's Government, consisting of the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor, have been popularly elected. Legislative authority is exercised by a unicameral legislature of 21 members elected every two years. Judicial power is vested in local Guamanian courts and in the U.S. District Court for Guam.

16. The U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. States Virgin Islands were purchased from Denmark in 1916. They are governed in accordance with an Organic Act that Congress enacted in 1936 and revised in 1954. Both the Organic Act and the revised Organic Act included a Bill of Rights paralleling U.S. constitutional protections for individual rights. The people of the Virgin Islands have been U.S. citizens since 1927. Since 1968, the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor have been popularly elected. Legislative power is vested in a unicameral legislature composed of 15 senators elected every 2 years. Judicial power is vested in a local court system and in the U.S. District Court for the Virgin Islands.

17. American Samoa. The United States acquired American Samoa through Deeds of Cession executed by its Chiefs in 1900 and 1904 and ratified by Congress in 1929. Unlike the situation with Guam and the Virgin Islands, Congress has not enacted an Organic Act for American Samoa. Instead, it provided for the delegation of executive authority to the Secretary of the Interior. In 1967, the Secretary approved the constitution of American Samoa, which provides for the functioning of its local government. A subsequent federal statute, 48 U.S.C. 1662a, prohibits any amendments or modification to the constitution without the consent of Congress. The constitution of American Samoa includes a Bill of Rights that substantially parallels the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.

18. Residents of American Samoa are U.S. nationals. A "national of the United States" is (1) a citizen of the United States or (2) "a person, who though not a citizen of the United States owes permanent allegiance to the United States". Immigration and Naturalization Act, section 101 (a)(22), 8 U.S.C. section 1101 (a)(22). Only the inhabitants of American Samoa and Swains Island are non-citizen nationals. A U.S. national is not an alien. "The term 'alien' means any person not a citizen or national of the United States." INA section 101 (a)(3), 8 U.S.C. section 1101 (a)(3). A non-citizen national who becomes a resident of any state and is otherwise eligible may become a citizen. INA section 325, 8 U.S.C. section 1436.

19. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor of American Samoa have been popularly elected since 1978. Legislative powers of the American Samoa are vested in a bicameral body known as the Fono. The judiciary consists of a system of local courts and of the High Court of American Samoa. The Chief Justice and Associate Justice of the High Court are appointed by the Secretary of theInterior. There is no federal court with general jurisdiction over American Samoa. American Samoa has tended to oppose the establishment of a federal court due to concern that it could have a negative impact on certain aspects of traditional Samoan culture, known as Fa'a Samoa, such as communal land ownership patterns.

20. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. At one time a component of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) elected to become part of the United States political family through a Covenant enacted in 1976. In accordance with the Covenant, the CNMI adopted a constitution which became effective in 1978. The Covenant and the constitution incorporate the protections of the U.S. Bill of Rights and guarantee U.S. citizenship for residents of the CNMI.

21. Under its constitution, the CNMI is governed by a popularly elected Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and bicameral legislature. Judicial power is vested in the CNMI's local court system and in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands. The CNMI is represented in Washington, D.C. by a popularly elected Resident Representative to the United States. The Resident Representative serves a four-year term but is not a member of Congress.

22. The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1947, following the Second World War, the United States entered into a Trusteeship Agreement with the United Nations Security Council under which the United States was designated trustee of more than 2,100 islands in the Western Pacific formerly subject to the Japanese mandate. Over time, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) was divided into four geographically distinct areas: the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau.

23. As discussed above, the Northern Mariana Islands chose in 1976 to become a Commonwealth of the United States. The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia each chose to become independent, sovereign nations in a relationship of free association with the United States. In December 1990, they became States Members of the United Nations. Thus, the sole remaining entity of the Trust Territory is the Republic of Palau.

24. Palau is still subject to the United Nations Trusteeship Agreement, and accordingly, it continues to be governed under the authority of the Secretary of the Interior of the United States. Under the constitution of Palau and pursuant to the Secretary's Order No. 3142 of 15 October 1990, the Secretary has delegated executive, legislative, and judicial authority to the local government of Palau. The United States recognized the constitution and government of Palau in 1980. The government consists of a popularly elected President and Vice President, a bicameral legislature known as the OEK, and a local judicial system. A body known as the Council of Chiefs advises the President on matters concerning traditional law and custom. Palau is composed of 16 states, each of which has its own local government and constitution.

25. In 1986, the government of Palau and the Government of the United States signed a Compact of Free Association, which was enacted into law by the U.S. Congress in the same year. The Compact was ratified by the people of Palau in a plebiscite in November 1993, which should soon lead to the termination of the Trusteeship and independence for Palau.