A fundamental belief held by founding fathers was that our basic individual liberties originated from God, or came from God. This is one reason the Bill of Rights is part of our US Constitution.
The Bill of Rights is composed of the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. Now, the Bill of Rights was part of a compromise between the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist.
The next lesson: Amending the Constitution
The Federalist approved of ratifying the US Constitution, while the Anti-Federalist were opposed. One reason the Anti-Federalist opposed ratifying or proving the US Constitution among the states was because the US Constitution, as drafted out of the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia, did not have a listing of rights as the state constitutions had, and still have today.
The Anti-Federalist stated, “How can you have a constitution which bounds or restricts government, but not have rights listed that government should guarantee or protect?” So, what the Federalist promised or compromised is that if some Anti-Federalist would agree to ratify the US Constitution, one of the first acts of Congress would be to ratify a listing of rights, or the Bill of Rights, to the US Constitution. The Bill of Rights were ratified in December 15, 1791.
Now, let’s look at these amendments, the Bill of Rights. The first 10 amendments to the US Constitution. The first amendment list five basic freedoms: the freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceable assembly, and government petition. What the freedom of religion is the idea that the people would be able to worship as their heart and as they see fit, and there would not be any government-sponsored church. Freedom of speech and press gives individuals the right to express their beliefs and feelings about government, even if those beliefs are contrary or against the government, and the reason we’re able to have a free press, that is newspapers today, televisions, radio, is because of the first amendment protects the right of the people to express their beliefs. Then you have freedom of peaceable assembly. The idea that the people collectively can come together and protest their government. And government petition. Petition meaning to ask or demand from their government.
The second amendment: the right to bear arms, or the right of the people to own firearms for their individual protection, and if need be, to prevent government tyranny. We would say the first five freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights mean nothing without the second amendment, the right to bear arms.
The third amendment provides a protection of the people from the quartering of soldiers in private homes except by law during war time. Before the American Revolution, during the French and Indian War, the American colonists were forced by the British government. And even after the French and Indian War, they were forced into quartering or housing soldiers in their private homes without a law. It was just a military edict. The third amendment protects the people from that type of abuse.
Then you have the fourth amendment, which is a protection from unreasonable search and seizure. The idea that people can find peace and privacy in their person, and among their papers, and in their homes.
The fifth amendment provides for due process and protection from double jeopardy and self-incrimination. Due process, that if someone is charged with a crime, there is a process, a rule of law, in order to find that person either guilty or innocent. Protection against double jeopardy, you cannot be found guilty for the same crime multiple times. And self-incrimination, the government cannot force you to take the testimony stand and testify against yourself.
The sixth amendment: the right of the accused to a speedy public trial before an impartial jury. The idea is that if you are accused of a crime, the trial will be speedy, quick as possible, and it will be a public trial. You will not be allowed to languish in jail. And the trial will be public, where people can see that, again, going back to amendment five, the due process is being adhered to. And then, the case is laid out before an impartial jury. A jury that is just going to look at the merits of the case, and decide either guilty or not guilty.
The seventh amendment protects the right of the people to a civil trial by jury in accordance with common law. Now, civil law, or a civil trial, is different from a criminal trial. In a civil trial, we’re dealing with disagreements between individuals or different groups of people. A criminal trial is a crime, a harm. It’s a trial the attempts to write a crime or a harm done against someone else, such as murder, theft, or burglary. A civil trial is a disagreement, maybe a business disagreement, between two individuals concerning a contract. Well, the seventh amendment protects the right of the people that if you seek redress in a civil court, you have a right to a trial, and that trial, by jury, is conducted in accordance with common law.
Then we have the eighth amendment. The idea is that the people are protected from cruel and unusual punishment and excessive fines and bail. This is pretty self-explanatory. The eighth amendment protects the people from the government imposing very cruel and unreasonable punishments on the people. The punishment should fit the crime.
Amendment nine preserves rights not mentioned. In other words, any right not mentioned in the Bill of Rights is automatically preserved and reserved to individuals.
And then, the tenth amendment is a preservation of the rights of states and individuals. The idea that any powers that are not given to the national government in the constitution, or any rights not given to the national government in the Constitution are automatically reserved to the states and the individuals respectively.
The next lesson: Amending the Constitution