The US Constitution’s Bill of Rights
America’s Bill of Rights was not constructed out of thin air but was based upon various century-old European laws along with brand new concepts from the current days. It was written as a way to guarantee the passage of the entire US Constitution.
While the 13 original colonies were indeed forming a federal government many still had strong opposing viewpoints on how to balance federal, state (colony) and individual rights into the final draft.
The Bill of Rights was added to the US Constitution right after its passage in order to assuage and appease those viewpoints. It collected various freedoms and protections as expressed by the colonies into ten amendments… the very first amendments to the US Constitution, never before codified in the history of mankind.
First Amendment: Protects freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the right to petition the government.
Second Amendment: Protects the right to keep and bear arms
Third Amendment: Restricts the quartering of soldiers in private homes
Fourth Amendment: Prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and sets out requirements for search warrants based on probable cause
The Exclusionary Rule prohibits government from obtaining evidence gathered in ways that are in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Fifth Amendment: Sets out rules for indictment by grand jury and eminent domain, protects the right to due process, and prohibits self-incrimination and double jeopardy
Sixth Amendment: Protects the right to a speedy public trial by jury, to notification of criminal accusations, to confront the accuser, to obtain witnesses and to retain counsel
Seventh Amendment: Provides for the right to a jury trial in civil lawsuits
Eighth Amendment: Prohibits excessive fines and excessive bail, as well as cruel and unusual punishment
Ninth Amendment: States that rights not enumerated in the Constitution are retained by the people
Tenth Amendment: States that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated, or enumerated, to it through the Constitution
- The Bill of Rights Primer – A Citizen’s Guide To The American Bill of Rights, by Akhil Reed Amar and Lisa Adams.
- University of Minnesota – Human Rights Library, http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/education/all_amendments_usconst.htm#Amendments1-10