Civics 101.4 — Bill of Rights


After laying out the fundamentals of a new democracy, the Founding Father put forth a list of amendments to govern by. The first 10 are known as the Bill of Rights that was ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures Dec. 15, 1791.

1st Amendment — Protection of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press; freedom to peaceably to assemble, and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

2nd Amendment — 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.

3rd Amendment — This protects the rights of homeowners. It stops the military from taking over a home during war and peace with the owners’ consent.

4th Amendment — Protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizures without a warrant, issued by a judge based on probable cause.

5th Amendment — The five protections under the fifth are: charges for major crimes are by indictments from a grand jury; someone cannot be charged twice for the same crime; those charged with crimes can’t be forced to testify against themselves; protects landowners from the government through emanate domain without fair compensation.

6th Amendment — During trials, the defendant has the right to have a lawyer represent them during a fair, speedy trail which includes confronting witness against them and allowing witnesses supporting the defendant.

7th Amendment — It’s estimated that less than one percent of civil trials are adjudicated by juries, the 7th Amendment protects that right.

8th Amendment — Although cruel and unusual punishment is not defined, one thing is certain, if the government tried to reinstate “rack, or thumbscrews, or gibbets as instruments of punishment” that would be found to violate the Eighth Amendment. It also requires that bail or fines cannot be excessive.

9th Amendment — “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” From my research, there is no clear meaning for this amendment. However, the one that makes the most sense is that there are additional rights citizens are entitled to which may not be covered by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

10th Amendment — “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.” This meaning is similar to the Ninth Amendment in that there are other rights not mentioned in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. However, it is generally held that his applies to States rights.

Originally there were 12 amendments to the Bill of Rights. However, the original first amendment as it was written, was never ratified. It had the confusing calculation of how House Districts were decided, it has been estimated that the House of Representatives would have over 6,000 members rather than the current 435. Thank God for small favors.

The other original amendment was finally ratified in 1992 with the passage of the 27th Amendment which stopped Senators and Congressmen from getting a pay raise while in office.

In fact, Benjamin Franklin’s was against paying Congress at all. He felt representatives would engage in “selfish pursuits” rather than enacting laws for the people. Because of this stance by Franklin, the Founding Fathers “focused on the problem of making sure that people did not go into public office to make a lot of money,” according to www.constitutioncenter.org. 

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