Our Con­sti­tu­tional Bill of Rights

Trillions - - From The Publisher -

Cen­tral to al­most any as­pect of democ­racy in the United States is an un­der­stand­ing of the first ten amend­ments to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, oth­er­wise known as the Bill of Rights. These rights are the rights of ev­ery Amer­i­can cit­i­zen and no one can le­git­i­mately take them from us.

In the Pream­ble to these amend­ments, the Con­sti­tu­tional framers noted that:

“The Con­ven­tions of a num­ber of the States, hav­ing at the time of their adopt­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion, ex­pressed a de­sire, in or­der to pre­vent mis­con­struc­tion or abuse of its pow­ers, that fur­ther declara­tory and re­stric­tive clauses should be added: And as ex­tend­ing the ground of public con­fi­dence in the Gov­ern­ment, will best en­sure the benef­i­cent ends of its in­sti­tu­tion.”

The ten amend­ments re­ferred to in that para­graph were rat­i­fied on De­cem­ber 15, 1791.

The amend­ments have been tested many times in the over 200 years since their orig­i­nal adop­tion. They have also been de­bated as to their mean­ing many times. In some cases the lan­guage orig­i­nally used is not very spe­cific and others are rather ob­so­lete, such as the Third Am­mend­ment about sol­diers be­ing housed in pri­vate homes with­out the owner’s per­mis­sion.

In some cases, that mean­ing has been ob­scured some­what by the pas­sage of time, such as in the case of the Sec­ond Amend­ment in which many ar­gue what the “right to keep and bear Arms” in fact al­lows. In many sit­u­a­tions, on the other hand, it is our in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive ig­no­rance of what the Amend­ments ac­tu­ally say that is the big­ger prob­lem. Such is the case, for ex­am­ple, with the First Amend­ment’s care­fully crafted “Es­tab­lish­ment Clause” re­gard­ing the pro­hi­bi­tion of laws against the free ex­er­cise of reli­gion and the gov­ern­ment’s lack of any right to es­tab­lish any reli­gion as its own or a pre­ferred one.

The Fourth Amend­ment’s pro­tec­tion from “un­rea­son­able searches and seizures” is also quite clear, as well as that “no war­rants shall is­sue, but upon prob­a­ble cause”. Yet so many to­day, in­clud­ing our Con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tives and those in the Ex­ec­u­tive branch who should def­i­nitely know bet­ter, not only do not un­der­stand these Amend­ments but in many cases have not even read them.

We at Tril­lions echo the be­lief of many that one of the most im­por­tant things each of us can do to re­store democ­racy to where it should be – is to read, un­der­stand, prac­tice and de­fend these im­por­tant rights for all of us.

This copy of the Bill of Rights comes from the ex­cel­lent U.S. Na­tional Archives site on the sub­ject at: http:// www. archives. gov/ ex­hibits/ charters/ bill_ of_ right­s_­tran­script.html.

Amend­ment I 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.

Amend­ment II A well-reg­u­lated Mili­tia, be­ing nec­es­sary to the se­cu­rity of a free State, the right of the peo­ple to keep and bear Arms, shall not be in­fringed.

Amend­ment III No Sol­dier shall, in time of peace be quar­tered in any house, with­out the con­sent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a man­ner to be pre­scribed by law.

Amend­ment IV The right of the peo­ple to be se­cure in their per­sons, houses, pa­pers, and ef­fects, against un­rea­son­able searches and seizures, shall not be vi­o­lated, and no War­rants shall is­sue, but upon prob­a­ble cause, sup­ported by Oath or af­fir­ma­tion, and par­tic­u­larly de­scrib­ing the place to be searched, and the per­sons or things to be seized.

Amend­ment V No per­son shall be held to an­swer for a cap­i­tal, or oth­er­wise in­fa­mous crime, un­less on a pre­sent­ment or in­dict­ment of a Grand Jury, ex­cept in cases aris­ing in the land or naval forces, or in the Mili­tia, when in ac­tual ser­vice in time of War or public dan­ger; nor shall any per­son be sub­ject for the same of­fence to be twice put in jeop­ardy of life or limb; nor shall be com­pelled in any crim­i­nal case to be a wit­ness against him­self, nor be de­prived of life, lib­erty, or prop­erty, with­out due process of law; nor shall pri­vate prop­erty be taken for public use, with­out just com­pen­sa­tion.

Amend­ment VI In all crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions, the ac­cused shall en­joy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an im­par­tial jury of the State and dis­trict wherein the crime shall have been com­mit­ted, which dis­trict shall have been pre­vi­ously as­cer­tained by law, and to be in­formed of the na­ture and cause of the ac­cu­sa­tion; to be con­fronted with the wit­nesses against him; to have com­pul­sory process for ob­tain­ing wit­nesses in his fa­vor, and to have the As­sis­tance of Coun­sel for his de­fence.

Amend­ment VII In Suits at com­mon law, where the value in con­tro­versy shall ex­ceed twenty dol­lars, the right of trial by jury shall be pre­served, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be oth­er­wise re-ex­am­ined in any Court of the United States, than ac­cord­ing to the rules of the com­mon law.

Amend­ment VIII Ex­ces­sive bail shall not be re­quired, nor ex­ces­sive fines im­posed, nor cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ments in­flicted.

Amend­ment IX The enu­mer­a­tion in the Con­sti­tu­tion, of cer­tain rights, shall not be con­strued to deny or dis­par­age others re­tained by the peo­ple.

Amend­ment X The pow­ers not del­e­gated to the United States by the Con­sti­tu­tion, nor pro­hib­ited by it to the States, are re­served to the States re­spec­tively, or to the peo­ple.

In ad­di­tion to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and its Bill of Rights, all hu­mans have the rights listed in the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights. The fact that so many na­tions rat­i­fied but do not ad­here to the Dec­la­ra­tion shows how far we have to go to ob­tain our ba­sic hu­man rights.

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