United States Constitution: The Bill of Rights


Figure 1.--

Delagates in debates at the Constitutional Convention expressed a need to prevent the new Federal Government from abusing its considerable powers. The oratory here was impasioned. Opponents of a strong Federal government charged that the Constitution emerging would result in tyranny. Of course all delegates had the experience with British violations of civil rights both before and during the Revolution. Some delegates demanded a 'bill of rights' that would spell out the rights of citizens amd limitations on Federal power in detail. British war policies during the Revolution instead of winning support, had alientated many of the undecided. The large number of British troops itself alienated many colonists. It may not be fair to call the British regulars brutal, but they were not gentle. They looked down on the colonists and often violated basic rights guaranteed under English common law. These were rights that the colonists had long lived under and thought athat were guaranteed as Englishmen. Disregard of these rights converted many of the undecided to the patriot cause. It is no accident that much of the Bill of Rights were inspired by abuses committed by British troops attempting to enforce unpopular laws enacted by Parliament. During the subsequent debate over ratification it became obvious that provisions restricting Federal powers were needed to ensure ratification. It was not possible to actually rewrite the Constitution approved in Philadelphia. Thus it was decided to add 10 amendments to the Constitution. Some state conventions called to consider ratification demanded such amendments. Others states only ratified the Constitution with the proviso that such amendments would be offered. the First Congress of the United States thus proposed 12 amendments to the Constitution (September 25, 1789). These amendments were submitted to the 13 state legislsatures for their approval. These amendments met most of the concens of the anti-Federalists. The first two of these proposed amendments concerned the number of constituents for each Congressional distruct and the compensation of Congressmen. It is interesting to note that in the midst of considering such fudamental issues that Congressmen included their salaries. These two amendmets were not ratified. The other 10 were ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures. These 10 amendments are commonly called the Bill of Rights and have since become a critically important part of the Constitution.

Revolutionary War

British war policies during the Revolution instead of winning support, had alientated many of the undecided. The large number of British troops itself alienated many colonists. It may not be fair to call the British regulars brutal, but they were not gentle. They looked down on the colonists and often violated basic rights guaranteed under English common law. These were rights that the colonists had long lived under and thought that were guaranteed as Englishmen. Disregard of these rights converted many of the undecided to the patriot cause. It is no accident that much of the Bill of Rights were inspired by abuses committed by British troops attempting to enforce unpopular laws enacted by Parliament.

Constitutional Convention

Delagates in debates at the The oratory here was impasioned. Opponents of a strong Federal government charged that the Constitution emerging would result in tyranny. Of course all delegates had the experience with British violations of civil rights both before and during the Revolution. Constitutional Convention expressed a need to prevent the new Federal Government from abusing its considerable powers. Remember, the Revolution was fought over perceived abuse of power by the British Government. Interestingly, the rhetoric of the Patriots was leveled against the king--it sounded better. But is was the Nritiah Parliament that passed the laws that the Patrios found so objectionable.

Demand for a Bill of Rights

Some delegates at the Phiadelphis Cinstitutional Convention demanded a 'bill of rights' that would spell out the rights of citizens amd limitations on Federal power in detail. During the subsequent debate over ratification it became obvious that provisions restricting Federal powers were needed to ensure ratification. It was not possible to actually rewrite the Constitution approved in Philadelphia. Thus it was decided to add 10 amendments to the Constitution. Some state conventions called to consider ratification demanded such amendments. Others states only ratified the Constitution with the proviso that such amendments would be offered. The Anti-Federalistrs based much of their opposition on these issues. The Federalistrs were generally willing to ccept amendments to adress the issues raised.

The Amendments

The First Congress of the United States to address the demand for a Bill of Rights proposed 12 amendments to the Constitution (September 25, 1789). These amendments were immediately submitted to the 13 state legislsatures and very qyuockly approved. They met most of the concens of the anti-Federalists. The first two of these proposed amendments concerned the number of constituents for each Congressional distruct and the compensation of Congressmen. It is interesting to note that in the midst of considering such fudamental issues that Congressmen included their salaries. These two amendmets were not ratified. The other 10 were ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures. They are today commonly called the Bill of Rights and have since become a critically important part of the Constitution. The actual provisions of the Consitution re of course vita, but much of what makes America special is contained in the Bill of Rights.

First Amendment

The First Amendment surely is one of the most important sentences ever written. It is the heart and soul of the Bill of Rights. It guarantees the rights of Americans to freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. The Bill of Rights inclues four major privisions. First, Congress is not only not allowed to promote one religion over others, but cannot restrict an individualís religious practices. Second, is the guarantees of freedom of expression. Congress is prohibited from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak their mind. Freedom of the press is mentioned along freedom of speech meaning individuals. Third, is a guarantees of the right of citizens to assemble peaceably. Fourt is guaranteee of the right of people to petition their government. This was acomplished by one plain, clearly written sentences. The First Amendment reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." ll of these provisions were revolutionary in the 19th century and cintinue to be so today. There are still relatively few countries around the world that offers such rights to its subjects, even thou the ones that do are thevmpst prosperous countries--unless rhey sit on a pool of oil. The First Amendment has paid a huge role in American history, beginning with the Revolution. Press standards were virtually non existent in the early years with partisan newspaper engaging in sacandallous accusations without the least basis of fact. This was not unusual, but what was different about America was it was not Government doing this, but individuals who had the right to criticize the Government witthout fear of reprisals. This worked fairly well because there were parisans on both sides which meant that the Goverment had to be held up to scrutiny and standards. A new issue has emerged in recent years is a very one sided mindset among the journalitic community. This is not, for the most part, a result of Government mandate, but appears to be more the left ward drift of academia and that individuals with left wing boases tend to be espeially interested in journalistic careers. The problem we have with this is that it is denying individuals and groups the right to get their views into the public forum and is denying citizens access to information and views--precisely what the fredom od speech and the press was designed to achieve. There are countles example of this in America today. Dr. Ben Carson is being criticized for what he has written about his youth. We do not object to this, but we notice that the same outlets that give considerble attention to this story keep from Americans similar statements by President Obama about his youth.

Second Amendment


Third Amendment








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Created: 6:13 PM 3/26/2015
Last updated: 6:25 PM 11/10/2015