The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America. It was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and later ratified by conventions in each state in the name of "the People"; it has since been amended 27 times. The Constitution has a central place in American law and political culture.
United States Constitution in "The Breaking of Nations"
President Donald Trump had broken the U.S. Constitution's grip on the government by simply ignoring it as much as he pleased. When he died in 2024, his successor, Mike Pence, consolidated the Republican Party's grip on power.
When Pacifica began secession, acting president Nicole Yoshida gave a speech citing, among other issues, the U.S. government's clamping down on freedom and the press and the persecution of non-Christian religions. Pacifica's Constitution was based on the U.S. Constitution. However, Pacifica made some key changes, creating a limit of 30 senators, eliminating the Electoral College and mandating direct popular elections for president and vice president, and imposing an outright ban on assault rifles.
United States Constitution in The Disunited States of America
In one alternate Crosstime Traffice did business in, the 1787 Constitutional Convention did not adopt an agreement regarding each state's representation in the national government, and the project was abandoned without generating a Constitution. Over the next decades, the Union continued to slog along under the weak, inefficient Articles of Confederation. By the early 19th century, the United States had ceased to exist, and was split into several different countries (still called "states").
United States Constitution in Joe Steele
President Joe Steele frequently used the strict letter of the Constitution to suborn, manipulate, and ultimately violate the spirit of the Constitution, with Steele justifying these actions as being in the country's best interest. Steele argued that the Constitution was not a suicide pact. In 1934, after the arrest of the Supreme Court Four, Steele suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus, despite Article I, Section 9's limitation on suspension to instances of rebellion and invasion, arguing that the U.S. was at war against hunger, poverty, and want, and that the Justices were aiding the "enemy". In later years, the First Amendment proved to be no protection for Steele's critics, as several who spoke against Steele were arrested, tried for treason, and imprisoned or executed.
After Steele's death, Vice President John Nance Garner ascended to the presidency. Despite his efforts to reduce Steele's tyranny, Garner was impeached, convicted, and removed from office by Congress. Thanks to a series of events, there was no legal successor to Garner. GBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, claiming that Congress was trying to usurp executive powers in violation of the Constitution, assumed "emergency" powers and seized the executive "Directorate", without Constitutional authority.
United States Constitution in "Must and Shall"
After the Great Rebellion, the United States ratified the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which stripped the white men who'd led the Great Rebellion of the right to vote in national elections. That disenfranchisement extended to their descendants.
In 1942, when undercover FBS agent Neil Michaels asked an elevator operator in New Orleans why Southerners never sought to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment, the young man said to do so would be an acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the U.S. government.
United States Constitution in Southern Victory
During the Remembrance era, the United States Constitution and the freedoms it protected were suborned by the United States' driving need to defeat the Confederate States. After the Great War, the country retreated some from the more authoritarian tendencies of Remembrance.
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America was heavily based upon the US one, often quoting verbatim from the older document. One difference was the legality of owning slaves, which was explicitly protected in the Confederate document until the manumission amendment was passed after the Second Mexican War.
United States Constitution in Worldwar
During the Race Invasion of Tosev 3, the United States Constitution's Third Amendment was casually violated for the first time in living memory, as General George Patton had his soldiers quartered in civilian homes in Illinois to conceal their numbers from the Race.
The Race, only recently familiar with the concept of "not-empires," did not fully appreciate the functionality of the Constitution's presidential succession mechanisms. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt died, Fleetlord Atvar gloated that the US would collapse in a putsch shortly after. Instead, adherence to the principles of Constitution and due legislation permitted Secretary of State Cordell Hull to take the oath of office (Vice President Henry Wallace had been killed in Seattle's bombing).
In 1964, the Constitution worked to the Race's benefit. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of United States Constitution reads "Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]." President Earl Warren understood the Free Exercise Clause to require him to assent to Atvar's request that the Race be allowed to set up shrines to the Spirits of Emperors Past in US territory, making the US the only independent Tosevite not-empire to honor this request.
Known Amendments to the Constitution in the works of Harry Turtledove
In the majority of Turtledove's work, the Constitution is the exact same document as in OTL until the 19th or 20th centuries. Listed below are the known changes and/or relevant amendments of the U.S. Constitution that are dealt with in Turtledove's writing.
The First Amendment
This Amendment is the same throughout all Turtledove works with a Point of Divergence after 1791. As described above, the Free Exercise Clause plays a role in Worldwar, and the Freedom of Speech Clause proves no barrier to Joe Steele's clampdown of critics in Joe Steele.
The Reconstruction Amendments: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth
The so-called Reconstruction Amendments were adopted in the aftermath of the American Civil War. These amendments are present in all Turtledove works with a Point of Divergence after 1865. One exception is "Must and Shall", (POD 1864), where strong evidence exists that these reconstruction amendments, plus additional amendments, were ratified.
In The Guns of the South (POD 1864), references are made to the fact that the Thirteenth Amendment was not gaining momentum in the U.S. Presumably, given the change in circumstances, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were not ratified, if they were ever introduced.
In Southern Victory, the United States had outlawed slavery by 1881. At one point, Frederick Douglass states that for freed blacks to gain equality in the U.S., another amendment to the Constitution would be necessary. This suggests that slavery in the U.S. was ended by a Constitutional amendment analogous to the Thirteenth. The remaining amendments also do not appear to exist in any recognizable form, although the voting rights guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment do seem to have been adopted either by the individual states or the country as a whole at some point.
The Sixteenth Amendment
The Seventeenth Amendment
In OTL, the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified in 1913. It allowed for the direct election of United States Senators, rather than via the state legislatures as originally mandated by Article I, § 3, Clauses 1 and 2. It appears in this form in any story with a POD after 1913.
In Southern Victory, we learn that at some point, the United States did begin the direct election of Senators, which would require an amendment to the Constitution. The particulars of this amendment, including its number, are not addressed.
The Eighteenth and Twenty-First Amendments
In OTL, the 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919, with the amendment taking effect on January 17, 1920. It effectively established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States by declaring illegal the production, transport and sale of alcohol (though not the consumption or private possession). This time period was known in popular culture as Prohibition. The 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. Thus, while they appear in their OTL form in any story with a POD after 1919, in most Turtledove works, the 18th and 21st Amendments are rarely relevant.
The Eighteenth is mentioned in passing in Joe Steele, where the titular Joe Steele does favor repeal. In 1933, Charlie and Esther Sullivan comment on the horrible taste of their pre-Repeal gin and how the "good stuff" is expensive and in short supply. Implicitly, the 21st Amendment was also ratified on the same schedule as OTL.
The Nineteenth Amendment
In OTL, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920, and granted women the right to vote. It exists in this form in all stories with a POD after 1920. In Southern Victory, the Nineteenth Amendment provided the same rights, but was passed in 1928.
The Twentieth Amendment
In OTL, the Twentieth Amendment was ratified in January 1933, but went into effect that October. It moved the beginning of the President's term to January 20th at noon and the Congressional term at January 3rd at noon.
The Twenty-Second Amendment
The Twenty-second Amendment was passed by Congress on March 21, 1947, and ratified by the requisite number of states on February 27, 1951. It sets a two-term limit for election and overall time of service to the office of President of the United States. It did not apply to the sitting President, Harry Truman.
The Twenty-second Amendment is still ratified on its OTL schedule in The Hot War. Harry Truman reflects that as the amendment doesn't apply to him, he could, theoretically, keep getting re-elected until 1976.
The Twenty-Eighth Amendment
As of this writing, the U.S. Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times in OTL, although there are several proposals for additional amendments. The short story "Elder Skelter" addresses one possible Twenty-Eighth Amendment, a balanced-budget amendment.
In Southern Victory, it appears that State Governors are allowed to appoint replacement US Representatives to fill out unexpired terms. The Constitution in OTL has never allowed this, suggesting there was an amendment to this effect, sometime between 1862 and 1915, but this issue is not addressed.
In "The Last Word," Hans the Janissary thinks that the Fifth Amendment (rather than Second) gives American citizens the right to bear arms. While this line is probably meant to depict Hans' ignorance, the Draka timeline has a POD of 1776, so it is dimly possible that the Amendments were numbered differently.
- Articles of Confederation, the original governing document of the United States. It was replaced by the Constitution in 1787.
- Constitution of the Confederate States of America, historical document which was based heavily on the U.S. Constitution
- Atlantean Charter, a plan of government for the United States of Atlantis, a country that broadly parallels the United States of America.
- And the Last Trump Shall Sound, pg. 12, loc. 124.
- Ibid. pg 13-16, loc. 146-190.
- Ibid., pgs. 22-23, loc. 284-219.
- The Disunited States of America, TPB, pg. 20.
- Joe Steele, pg. 88.
- Ibid., pg. 293.
- Ibid., pg. 432.
- Ibid., pg. 435.
- See, e.g., Counting Up, Counting Down, pg. 66, TPB.
- In the Balance, pg. 437, HC.
- Striking the Balance, pgs. 114-116, mmp.
- How Few Remain, pg. 496.
- The Center Cannot Hold, pg. 261 (HC).
- Joe Steele, pg. 39.
- Ibid, pg. 75.
- The Center Cannot Hold, pg. 209.
- Joe Steele, pg. 40.
- The Center Cannot Hold, pg. 324.
- Bombs Away, pg. 273.
- Walk in Hell, p. 163-164.
[[Category:Must and Shall]