Bill of Rights Essay

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Bill of Rights Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 310

  • Pages: 1

Bill of Rights

The English Bill of Rights was a document that set clear limits on what a ruler could and could not do. It consisted of many rules and regulations that are, today, very useful. For example, one rule that applies to the laws in America today is “The people have a right to petition the government and to have a fair and speedy trial by a jury and their peers.” This rule applies to the government today because in the constitution that we have it currently states, in the Sixth Amendment, that all persons accused of criminal wrongdoing has the right to a speedy trial. Also, another important rule that is still used today is “The people should not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment or to excessive fines and bail.” This law is the eighth amendment in the United States constitution.

The United States amendment states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.” The punishments that were considered cruel, at the time, that put this law into place was burning at the stake, crucifixion, or breaking of the wheel. Interesting enough, the United States supreme court held the use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment even if the prisoner didn’t suffer any severe injuries. These laws and regulations were not only so important in present life, but also in colonial North America. A major cause of the American Revolution, in fact, was that the colonist felt they were being deprived of these rights. If it wasn’t for these rules being set into place during this time period, laws and life in America could’ve been very different and would have changed the way life is today.

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Bill of Rights Essay

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Bill of Rights Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1694

  • Pages: 7

Bill of Rights

According to US Supreme Court, a major accomplishment of the 1st Congress was the drafting of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, which sets limits on the power of government in order to protect the liberties and rights of individuals from the government’s abuse of its power. Creation of the Bill of Rights “A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular [that is, federal or state], and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference,” wrote Thomas Jefferson to James Madison on December 20, 1787.

Jefferson was in Paris, serving as U. S. minister to France, when he received a copy of the Constitution drafted at the federal convention in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 and fournd that it lacked a bill of rights. Jefferson generally approved of the new Constitution and reported in detail to Madison the many features of the proposed federal government that satisfied him.

Then Jefferson declared in his December 20 letter to Madison that he did not like “the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies… and trial by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land. ” A bill of rights consists of statements of civil liberties and rights consists of statements of civil liberties and rights that a government may not take away from the people who live under the government’s authority.

A bill of rights sets legal limits on the power of government to prevent public officials from denying liberties and rights to individuals, which they possess on the basis of their humanity. Thomas Jefferson was concerned that the strong powers of government provided for by the U. S. Constitution could be used to destroy inherent civil liberties and rights of the people. He noted with pleasure that the Constitution of 1787 included means to limit the power of government, such as the separation of powers among three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial—to prevent any person or group from exercising power tyrannically.

However, Jefferson strongly believed that additional guarantees of individual freedoms and rights were needed. He therefore demanded a bill of rights to protect certain liberties of the people, such as freedom to express ideas in public, from infringement by the government. Many Americans agreed with Jefferson, and they supported ratification of the Constitution only on the condition that a bill of rights would be added to it. James Madison took up this cause at the first federal Congress in 1789.

As a member of the Virginia delegation to the House of Representatives, Madison proposed several amendments to the Constitution to place certain liberties and rights of individuals beyond the reach of the government. The Congress approved 12 of these constitutional changes and sent them to the state governments for ratification. In 1791, 10 of these amendments were approved by the states and added to the Constitution. These 10 amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. Contents of the Bill of Rights Amendment 1 protects freedom of thought, belief, and expression.

It says, for example, that the Congress of the United States is forbidden to pass any law “respecting an establishment of religion” or depriving individuals of certain fundamental civil liberties: religious freedom, the freedom of speech and the press, and the right of the people to gather together peacefully and petition the government to satisfy complaints they have against public policies and officials. The history of the 1st Amendment has involved the expansion of individual freedoms and the separation of church and state.

For example, the 1st Amendment has been interpreted to mean that government may not establish an official religion, favor any or all religions, or stop individuals from practicing religion in their own way. Further, the right to assembly has been extended to include the right of association in organizations. Finally, the rights of free speech and press are generally understood to be very broad, if not absolute. There are, however, legal limits concerning the time, place, and manner of speech.

Amendment 2 protects the right of the state governments and the people to maintain militia or armed companies to guard against threats to their social order, safety, and security; and in connection with that state right the federal government may not take away the right of the people to have and use weapons. Amendment 3 forbids the government, during times of peace, to house soldiers in a private dwelling without the consent of the owner. In a time of war the government may use private dwellings to quarter troops, if this is done lawfully.

Amendment 4 protects individuals against unreasonable and unwarranted searches and seizures of their property. It establishes conditions for the lawful issuing and use of search warrants by government officials to protect the right of individuals to security “in their persons, houses, papers, and effects. ” There must be “probable cause” for issuing a warrant to authorize a search or arrest; and the place to be searched, the objects sought, and the person to be arrested must be precisely described. Amendment 5 states certain legal and procedural rights of individuals.

For example, the government may not act against an individual in the following ways: • Hold an individual to answer for a serious crime unless the prosecution presents appropriate evidence to a grand jury that indicates the likely guilt of the individual. • Try an individual more than once for the same offense. • Force an individual to act as a witness against himself in a criminal case. • Deprive an individual of life, liberty, or property without due process of law (fair and proper legal proceedings).

• Deprive an individual of his or her private property for public use without compensating the person fairly. Amendment 6 guarantees individuals suspected or accused of a crime certain protections against the power of government. This amendment provides to individuals: • The right to a speedy public trial before an unbiased jury picked from the community in which the crime was committed. • The right to receive information about what the individual has been accused of and why the accusation has been made. • The right to face, in court, witnesses offering testimony against the individual.

• The right to obtain favorable witnesses to testify for the defendant in court (that is, the right to subpoena witnesses). • The right to help from a lawyer. Amendment 7 provides for the right to a trial by jury in civil cases (common lawsuits or cases that do not involve a criminal action) where the value of the item(s) or the demanded settlement involved in the controversy exceeds $20. Amendment 8 protects individuals from punishments that are too harsh, fines that are too high, and bail that is too high.

Amendment 9 says that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution are not the only rights that individuals may have. Individuals retain other rights, not mentioned in the Constitution, that the government may not take away. Amendment 10 says that the state governments and the people of the United States retain any powers the Constitution does not specifically grant to the federal government or prohibit to the state governments, such as the power of the states to establish and manage public school systems. Expanding the scope of the Bill of Rights

The framers of the first 10 amendments to the U. S. Constitution intended to limit only the powers of the national government, not those of the state governments. This understanding was supported by the Supreme Court’s decision in Barron v. Baltimore (1833). Writing for a unanimous Court, Chief Justice John Marshall concluded that the Bill of Rights could be used to limit the power only of the federal government, not of the states. However, the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868 opened new possibilities.

This amendment states that “no state…shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. ” During the 20th century the Supreme Court has interpreted the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to require state and local governments to comply with most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights. Therefore, state and local governments are now prohibited from encroaching on most of the civil liberties and rights found in the U. S. Constitution.

Under provisions of Amendment 14, the federal government has been empowered to act on behalf of individuals against state and local governments or people who would try to abridge other individuals’ constitutional rights or liberties. ;, Counsel, right to; Freedom of speech and press; Incorporation doctrine; Gun control and the right to bear arms; Liberty under the Constitution; Madison, James; Privacy, right to; Property rights; Religious issues under the Constitution; Rights of the accused; Searches and seizures; Self-incrimination, privilege against; Student rights under the Constitution.

See also Amendments, constitutional, Assembly, association, and petition, rights to; Civil rights; Constitution, U. S. Sources • David J. Bodenhamer and James W. Ely, Jr. , The Bill of Rights in Modern America after Two-Hundred Years (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993). • Kermit L. Hall, ed. , By and For the People: Constitutional Rights in American History (Arlington Heights, Ill. : Harlan Davidson, 1991). • Leonard Levy, “Why We Have a Bill of Rights”, Constitution 3, no.

1 (Winter 1991): 6–13. • Milton Meltzer, The Bill of Rights: How We Got It and What It Means (New York: Crowell, 1990). • Jack Rakove, “Inspired Expedient: How James Madison Balanced Principle and Politics in Securing the Adoption of the Bill of Rights”, Constitution 3, no. 1 (Winter 1991): 19–25. • Donald A. Ritchie, The Constitution (New York: Chelsea House, 1989). • Robert Allen Rutland, The Birth of the Bill of Rights, 1776–1791 (New York: Collier, 1962)

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Bill of Rights Essay

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Bill of Rights Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 848

  • Pages: 3

Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is the ten amendments of the United States Constitution. They were first introduced by James Madison in 1789. These amendments protect the fundamental rights of citizens by restricting the powers of the federal government. These rights provide freedom of speech, religion, bear arms and freedom from search and cruel punishment. Congress can also cannot impose the death penalty or seize the property of any individual without the due process of courts. The Bill of Rights remains the fundamental document of the American government and legal system.

It also embodies the freedom and culture of the nation. The First Amendment of the United States prevents Congress from making legislation that establishes any religion, prohibits freedom of religion, restricts freedom of speech and press or limits the right to assemble peacefully. The founding fathers did not want an official Church to be established in the new nation. The British had established the Church of England as the official church of Britain. This Church was also the official church in some of the colonies. The founding fathers believed that this limited their freedom of religion.

They also believed that government should not favor any one religion because it would lead to religious intolerance. Indeed the primary function of migration to North America was to escape the religious and economic persecution present in Europe. Anti British publications disseminated information regarding abuses of the colonial rule. Further anyone with pro British sentiments was silenced or intimidated. The founding fathers therefore passed this amendment in order to ensure that tolerance of different ideas and expression were allowed (Hoffman, 1997).

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution allows the creation of a militia and the right of people to keep and bear arms. The creation of a militia was taken from England which had passed a law in 1689 giving the right to bear arms. The right to keep arms protected the American colonists from Indian attacks and European enemies of Britain. These arms would also be useful for the colonists when they declared their independence from Britain. The founding fathers also believed that the English law restricts the citizens of England to bear and keep arms to Protestants.

Poor people cannot use weapons for hunting purposes. Further they also believed that a universal militia is the best defense against foreign aggression (Hoffman, 1997). The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution helps protect the citizens from illegal searches and seizures conducted by political authority. The British used writs of assistance which were general search warrants after its navigation laws were being ignored by American colonists. The founding fathers did not want this type of illegal search and seizure to be conducted by the American government.

This was the reason why the Fourth Amendment was passed (Hoffman, 1997). The Third Amendment prohibits the government from allowing soldiers to be lodged into the private homes of civilians. The founding fathers wanted to prevent the government from allowing this as the British had done before the American Revolution. According to the Quartering Act, British troops could lodge in private homes and use whatever resources were needed to maintain discipline and morale (Hoffman, 1997). The Eight Amendment prohibits cruel punishment and excessive fines.

In England, the power to grant bails to criminals was in the hands of sheriffs. This would lead to abuses in power. Despite a law passed by the English parliament, the law was still subverted. The founding fathers sought to curb this English law after independence to prevent the government from imposing excessive fines and cruel punishment (Hoffman, 1997). The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution allows accused criminals to be provided with due process of law and forbids double jeopardy. It also prevents the forcible testimony of a person against himself or herself.

The British colonial legal system was flawed as it did not give criminals the due process during legal proceedings. It did not protect the individuals from political or religious enemies. It was misused by anyone who wanted to settle scores with anyone. The founding fathers of the United States of America did not want this to occur. This Amendment therefore calls for the establishment of impartial grand juries which would protect criminals from false accusations or abuse of law. It also prevents the conviction of a person again if he has served prison for one crime.

The Amendments of the US Bills of Rights which were incorporated into the US Constitution are the foundation of the country’s legal system, government and culture. They ensure the protection of the rights of individuals and restrict the ability of the Federal government to impose laws which would infringe on the civil liberties of the people. References: Ronald Hoffman. The Bill of Rights: Government Proscribed. University Press of Virginia for the United States Capitol Historical Society, 1997.

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