The Bill Of Rights
The United States Constitution has been called a living document because it can be changed in two ways: formal amendment, and information adjustments and decision making. On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States submitted 12 amendments to the state legislatures for ratification. The first two concerned each state’s representative’s number of constituents, and congressmen’s compensations, but they were not ratified. In 1791, three-fourths of the state legislatures quickly ratified Articles 3 to 12, which constitute the Bill of Rights.
The amendments, inspired by Thomas Jefferson and drafted by James Madison, placed fundamental restraints on the power of the federal government over ordinary citizens: Congress cannot limit free speech, even unpopular expression, or interfere with religion; deny the people the right to keep and bear arms; require the quartering of troops in private homes; or allow homes to be searched by federal authorities without search warrants. Persons accused of federal crimes cannot be made to testify against themselves; nor can the federal government deny citizens trial by jury; or deprive them of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The central government cannot impose excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishments. Rights in the Constitution are not exhaustive; people have all the rights not listed; and those powers not given to the federal government or denied the states should belong solely to the states or the people.
The Bill of Rights protected citizens from abuses of the federal government only, not from unfair state laws. In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution. It provided that no state may deny its citizens either due process of law or equal protection of the laws. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Supreme Court used the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to expand the protections of the first ten amendments. Therefore, the Bill of Rights now applies to state as well as federal laws.
Although the Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times, the framing of the Bill of Rights was in itself one of the most momentous actions of any Congress, with regard to amending the Constitution, in the nation’s history. Never before had any single document enumerated so clearly and emphatically the rights of private citizens. The Bill of Rights has become a landmark in the history of human liberty.
Essay on The Bill of Rights
1379 Words6 Pages
The Bill of Rights is a list of limitations on the power of the government. Firstly, the Bill of Rights is successful in assuring the adoption of the Constitution. Secondly, the Bill of Rights did not address every foreseeable situation. Thirdly, the Bill of Rights has assured the safety of the people of the nation. Successes, failures, and consequences are what made the Bill of Rights what they are today. Firstly, the Bill of Rights has guaranteed the adoption of the Constitution. James Madison proposed the Bill of Rights to the First Federal Congress on June 8, 1789 (Primary Documents 1). The First Federal Congress then proposed the twelve amendments to the constitution to the state legislatures (Constitutional Politics in Ohio 1). The…show more content…
An agreement was finally made to create the Bill of Rights to help secure ratification of the Constitution itself. Secondly, the Bill of Rights did not address every foreseeable situation. One failure of the Bill of Rights was the first amendment of the original Bill of Rights. The amendment concerned the number of constituents for each Representative and was never ratified. It said that once the House has one hundred members, it should not go below one hundred, and once it reached two hundred, it should not go below two hundred (Mount 1). Another failure was The Anti-Title Amendment. This amendment said that any citizen who accepted or received any title of nobility from a foreign power, or who accepted without the consent of Congress any gift from a foreign power, by would no longer be a citizen (Mount 1). Basically, this said that if someone received or accepted something from a foreign power, that person would no longer be a citizen. The Anti-Title Amendment was submitted to the States in 1810 and was ratified by only twelve states, the last being in 1812 (Mount 1). Thirty-eight states are required to ratify to add an amendment. The Slavery Amendment was another failure of the Bill of Rights. This amendment was not ratified because the House did not want any amendment to be made to the Constitution which would authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any state, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of