This document contains words, phrases, and concepts used in the United States Constitution. Links to this document can be found on the U.S. Constitution Page. Note that some words are defined only as they apply to the Constitution itself. You may also wish to see the Popular Names Page. the Notes Page. and the Advanced Topics Page .
Sources: AHD American Heritage Dictionary NMW The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary FWE Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia
adjourn v. 1. To suspend until a later stated time. [<OFr. ajourner ] adjournment n. Source: AHD
appellate adj having power to review decisions of lower courts Source: NMW
apportion v. to distribute proportionately Source: NMW
In the context of the Constitution, apportionment means that each state gets a number appropriate to its population. For example, Representatives are apportioned among the states, with the most populous getting the greater share. Direct taxes (of which there are none today) were to be charged to the states in this manner as well.
The need for apportionment of taxes, and the reason for it, is difficult for us to imagine today, but there were good reasons for it. The following is an explanation of the need for the Direct Tax Apportionment clause. It was written by Supreme Court Justice Paterson in Hylton v US (3 US 171 ):
The constitution declares, that a capitation tax is a direct tax; and both in theory and practice, a tax on land is deemed to be a direct tax. The provision was made in favor of the southern states; they possessed a large number of
slaves; they had extensive tracts of territory, thinly settled, and not very productive. A majority of the states had but few slaves, and several of them a limited territory, well settled, and in a high state of cultivation. The southern states, if no provision had been introduced in the constitution, would have been wholly at the mercy of the other states. Congress in such case, might tax slaves, at discretion or arbitrarily, and land in every part of the Union, after the same rate or measure: so much a head, in the first instance, and so much an acre, in the second. To guard them against imposition, in these particulars, was the reason of introducing the clause in the constitution.
attainder n. The loss of all civil rights by a person sentenced for a serious crime. [< OFr. attaindre, to convict] Source: AHD
In the context of the Constitution, a Bill of Attainder is meant to mean a bill that has a negative effect on a single person or group (for example, a fine or term of imprisonment). Originally, a Bill of Attainder sentenced an individual to death, though this detail is no longer required to have an enactment be ruled a Bill of Attainder.
A bill of credit is some sort of paper medium by which value is exchanged between the government and individuals. Money is a bill of credit, but a bill of credit need not be money. An interest-bearing certificate that was issued by Missouri, and usable in the payment of taxes, was thus ruled to be an unconstitutional bill of credit.