Article 5 of the Constitution Summary

Article 5 of the Constitution
“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

Article 5 of the constitution explains the mechanism of how the United States Constitution can be changed or amended from its original wording.

A way to change the constitution is needed because the writers of the Constitution knew they had not created a finished document. In fact, for the Constitution to get ratified, several important constitutional amendments needed to be passed right away, as some states vowed not to ratify the Constitution without these amendments.

These first amendments – ten in all – are collectively called the Bill of Rights. However, the writers of the constitution also knew that other changes would be necessary for the future.

Knowing that the country would change over time, the framers wanted the Constitution to change with the country’s times and needs. To enable these changes, they wrote an amendment process into the Constitution. This amendment process is spelled out in Article 5 of the Constitution.

Under the procedures specified in Article 5, the Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times. The first ten were adopted together in 1791, and the other seventeen amendments were adopted between 1795 and 1992.

The Amendment Process

There are two ways to amend the Constitution.

One method is that an amendment can be proposed from either House or the Senate and then sent for approval by the state legislatures.

The second method is for a state or group of states to call for a constitutional convention, and for both houses to approve this proposal of Congress.

In either case, a proposal of an amendment must pass in both the House and Senate by a two-thirds majority and must then be ratified by three-quarters of the state legislatures (this would currently require ratification by 38 states).

The 3rd and the 4th way to amend the Constitution.

Looking deeper, however, there are actually four ways to amend the US Constitution. Within the two methods of amending the Constitution by either a legislative body or a convention, there are two other methods. Here are the four methods:

  1. A proposal by Congress with ratification by state legislatures.
  2. A proposal by a convention of states with ratification by state conventions.
  3. A proposal by a convention of states with ratification by state legislatures.
  4. A proposal by Congress with ratification by state conventions.

The first is the method used for all but one of the amendments. The fourth method was used for the 21st Amendment (which repealed the 18th Amendment, ending Prohibition).

Methods two and three have never been used to pass a constitutional amendment. Another version of method three is that the states can call on Congress to convene a convention. Usually, a time limit is imposed in the amendment‘s writing (typically 7 years) so that the process will not be dragged out indefinitely. If the time limit expires before the required three-fourths majority ratifies the amendment, the amendment will fail to become law.

The Difficult Process of Amending the Constitution

Any of the four methods to amend the Constitution are tedious and difficult to achieve. The requirement to work through both houses of Congress and the state governments’ legislatures is a significant obstacle to overcome because of the large number of legislators involved. A significant number of these legislators need to agree on the need for and wording of the proposed amendment.

A two-thirds majority must be reached in both the House and Senate and at least three-quarters of the states must ratify it; otherwise, the proposed amendment will be defeated. There are numerous places in this adoption process where it can go awry. For an amendment to succeed in being adopted, there must be a high degree of bipartisan cooperation.

Maintaining the Stability of the Government

Why did the framers make the process for changing the Constitution so difficult in Article 5?

One immediate reason was that the framers needed to lock in the political deals made to get the Constitution ratified. Several states made it known they would not vote in favor of the Constitution if certain rights were not guaranteed.

Even as the basic Constitution‘s merits were being debated in the state legislatures, the framers worked on the first twelve amendments to be adopted right away. As it turned out, two of those amendments were rejected, but ten were ratified (the Bill of Rights) soon after the Constitution was adopted. To make it possible for amendments to be adopted to the Constitution, Article 5 was created.

The more important reason to make the amendment process difficult was a more visionary idea. The framers believed that making changes to the Constitution a lengthy and difficult process would help maintain the nation’s laws stability. They did not want it to be possible for arbitrary changes to be made to the Constitution, yet if changes were needed, the difficulty would guarantee that the change was needed and well thought out.

Another safeguard to keep the nation’s ruling document’s stability is that Article 5 stipulates that no amendment may change the 1st and 4th clauses in the Ninth Section of Article 1. Moreover, article 5 says no amendment can deprive a state of its full representation in the U.S. Senate. Additionally, the U.S. President has no role in any part of the formal amendment process.

Article 5, Part of a Well Crafted Document

In Article 5, the US Constitution writers carefully crafted a document to ensure the new country’s strength and stability. As a result, the Constitution has helped maintain the United States government’s stability for well over 200 years.


We would like to send you an update when we post extra content to our blog.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leaving a comment is the best way to voice your opinion about the constitution or other matters. is happy to hear all views and discussions. All comments are moderated, although are not refused based on standpoint. We try to take an unbiased stance.

Leaving a comment is also the best way to reach the management team of . If it is a private message, then it won’t be published.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *